Creating opportunities for equity, growth and progress through collaboration and compassion
Abrar is one of the longest standing employees at Halifax Opportunities Trust. He started working back in 1997, before Halifax Opportunities Trust even existed and was involved in a range of initiatives delivered by West Central Halifax Partnership ltd in a seven-year regeneration project. This eventually became the charity we are familiar with today.
We’d like to think that Abrar has given HOT a guiding hand over the past 21 years. He and his teams have supported many local people and created opportunities for them to thrive. In turn, the Trust has created many opportunities for his career progression, professional growth and to fuel his passion for Park ward and the communities within it.
Abrar is a local resident of Park ward and still is to this day, which is where his drive for positive change in the area is rooted. He began his career as an Assistant to the Hanson Lane Enterprise Centre Manager, supporting tenants with their business and space needs.
When funding for this role came to an end, Abrar found himself with further prospects in something a little bit different – he was approached by Jenny Lynn (the CEO of WCHP) to take on a new role in IT skills training, for WCHP. This was a challenge he gladly accepted, along with the big job of developing and implementing a strategy that would mean its delivery was effective on little budget – this built the foundations of Abrar’s career.
Abrar’s role soon progressed into that of Training Manager, where he overcame one of his greatest challenges; empowering BAME women to take-up ESOL classes. In the early days of the Trust, many of the learners enrolling for ESOL were local male residents. Abrar wanted to change this; he recalls:
“Women have such an influence in the household and that’s where change happens. To bring about positive change in the area, I knew I had to do something to ensure women with little or no English communication skills were sufficiently empowered to make a difference.
He was seeing that many women in the area were full-time mothers and couldn’t attend classes due lack of childcare. They also felt more comfortable with female-only classrooms, which was one of the reasons for low uptake. Abrar found a local youth club to host a creche and employed a team of trained staff to teach ESOL. These classes still run to this day and, each year, our Inclusive Integration team supports around 120 learners to graduate in ESOL.
A domino effect
This has had a profound effect on the community over the years; helping women and families to achieve life skills and qualifications, as well as build connections throughout Park ward and Calderdale. For the Trust, it has helped to build partnerships and establish some of our core delivery areas.
Through his experience and time at HOT, Abrar has seen and influenced a great amount of change. From winning his first large scale contract to boost digital awareness throughout the ward in the early 2000s, with a state-of-the-art IT facility, to building and strengthening the employment team which now supports 100 people into work each year, he has helped the Trust secure over 50 contracts to ensure delivery is sustainably funded and effectively rolled out.
Such contracts include the ongoing Staying Well programme, part of the Trust’s Community and Wellbeing provision, managed by Abrar. The Staying Well Hub at Hanson Lane helps around 150 people each year to tackle isolation and loneliness across Central Halifax. Part of this provision also includes Community Organising, so residents feel heard, understood and empowered to bring about positive change in their community. A number of other health initiatives also fall under this area of delivery, including a diabetes awareness project.
Staying true to HOT ‘s roots
Abrar continues to ensure the delivery of the charity’s services remains firmly rooted in Park, through place-based delivery and practices. However, as the charity and community needs grow it has become increasingly pertinent for the Trust to ensure accessibility across Calderdale and Kirklees, too.
HOT has supported individuals, families and communities living in both districts, through collaboration and partnership working. Abrar believes that:
“Through collaboration we can reach further and support more people, while building relationships with similar charities or organisations. It enhances our capacity and ensures we avoid duplication, so we can uphold our local delivery and resilience.”
His work has not gone un-recognised to external organisations, either. He is a well-known figure in the local community and works closely with Calderdale Council to ensure residents of Park ward feel listened to and are represented. This is evident in the work the Trust carried out throughout the COVID pandemic, as a community anchor, which demonstrated collaboration and community action. Over 1000 food parcels were distributed to local residents in 2020, with almost 8,000 calls made across the Trust to offer support, befriending or wellbeing guidance.
In 2021, Abrar was awarded with a Medal of the Order of the British Empire (BEM), for services to the community in Halifax, West Yorkshire during Covid-19. When we asked Abrar of his achievement, he commented:
“I am very grateful for the BEM, but the real success for me is the impact the Trust has had on Park ward and the wider community. I’m proud of the progress my teams have made over the years and hope this continues. It’s about the difference we make to people’s lives.”
As we celebrate our 21st Anniversary, we are looking back on the many opportunities we have created for individuals, families, businesses and the community. This means something different to everyone, and Abrar’s involvement and influence over the years has seen opportunities present in even the most challenging of times. To him, ‘creating opportunities’ means:
“Removing barriers, empowering independence and helping others…
We are always evolving and responding to the needs of our community and that is what drives us forward. Through building relationships, we become more resilient and that is how we are able to quickly adapt and respond.”
Through the years and the many changes the Trust has experienced, Abrar has been a constant at HOT, helping to drive progress and adapt. Another constant at the Trust has been the Hanson Lane Enterprise Centre; a space that is seen as the heart of the Trust by many. Abrar has always been based at the site and sees it as not only where he works, but as a community hub. To Abrar, Halifax Opportunities Trust is all about:
“Listening to our community and engaging with people to build trust and form strong partnerships that enable us to deliver flexible support.”
A brighter future
Our 21st birthday doesn’t only mean we’re looking back on our impact over the years, it gives us the opportunity to look forward and establish plans for the future. Abrar is positive that the future has lots of great things in store to ensure the 1,700 people we reach each day are able to build a better life, and is passionate about being a part of this.
Learn more about our 21st Birthday celebrations
As well as the contributions our connections are kindly providing to tell our story, we have lots of other things planned. Learn more on our official webpage, via the button below.