Change 100 is an initiative run by our charity partner, Leonard Cheshire. It’s a programme of summer internships that aims to unlock the untapped potential of students and graduates with disabilities. It gives organisations access to a talent pool full of ability, creativity and insight. Leonard Cheshire launched Change 100 in 2013, with an ambition to change the employment landscape for disabled students and recent graduates. By working with their partner employers to develop inclusive workplace cultures, they aim to remove barriers and create opportunities for disabled people to achieve their potential. You can see more about Change 100 here: www.leonardcheshire.org/change100We were thrilled to get involved with this fantastic initiative and on the 1st July we welcomed Sam Jones into the business as HR Assistant. Here’s a bit about Sam in his own words.My name is Sam Jones and I’m a nineteen year old student, on an internship at Meridian Business Support as part of their HR department. I got the job after I went through an application process with Leonard Cheshire. They specialise in getting people who may fear they are under-equipped or not ‘good enough’ to get into work by offering them extra support and guidance along the way. Leonard Cheshire and their programme ‘Change100’ helped me get my placement with Meridian by matching me with a role which suited my needs – of which my biggest concern was being close to where I live so that I did not have to travel outside of my city to work. At the beginning of the application process, I hadn’t passed my driving test, I had failed twice and was close to giving up altogether, which was why I needed a job locally as I assumed I would have to rely on public transport. But I pushed myself to pass my driving test, and in February of this year I passed, third time lucky! In January of this year, I was debating whether I really could handle the anxiety and stress of applying for jobs. Six months later we were in a worldwide pandemic, and I had no idea if all my stress and sleepless nights would have been a waste after all. But I kept my hopes high and I DID NOT GIVE UP!! I stayed in touch with my network, attended meetings, asked questions to the Change100 staff to make sure I wasn’t falling behind, and one day Sarah Ward (my now Line Manager) messaged saying hello, and that I was now part of the team. My hard work and persistence had paid off. Life has shown me that you must never give up; push yourself, step out of your comfort zone, and keep on achieving. This is only my first step into full-time work, and after university the only thing that may hold me back will be me, and I’ve proven to myself that I shouldn’t let my worries hold me back.In my weekly blog, I will document my life on the job – challenges, achievements, highs and lows, this will be my way of sharing my experience with others to hopefully show that if you work hard and challenge yourself you can achieve things beyond your expectations of yourself. First weekFor someone that struggles with anxiety – and an unhealthy amount of overthinking, the fact that Meridian, and in particular the Head of Human Resources Sarah Ward, took so much time to put me at ease was absolutely incredible. Suffering with anxiety, I can’t help but create unlikely scenarios and worry about niche things, which can often lead to continuous nights of lost sleep, and the urge to distance yourself from whatever is worrying you. But Sarah emphasised from our first email that nothing was a stupid question, and she was going to be there to guide me from my first day of work to my last. From questions which most people would just figure out as they go along, such as ‘How bad is the traffic around that area’ etc., for me, these are things that I would prefer to know in advance and plan accordingly, but often feel too shy to ask as they feel like ‘obvious’ or ‘silly’ questions. But at Meridian, even just in my first week, I have absolutely understood that no-one there believes in stupid questions, and they are more than willing to help.Everyone has been so welcoming and kind, I don’t feel like ‘just an intern’, I feel welcome and already part of the family. Even the CEO took an hour out of his day to meet me, and we have since been in contact via text and e-mail. Every department is taking the time to reach out and introduce themselves, tell me a little about themselves and explain how and why they ended up doing what they are. This advice and experience is invaluable, as a young teenager soon graduating university and going into the world of work, hearing other professional advice in such a friendly and personal manner makes it easy to absorb the information and ask questions and have conversation about work, even in a more informal and friendly format. Richard and Sarah are also continuously going above and beyond to make sure I am okay and understand what is required of me. They both text and call regularly and take the time to make sure things are working and I have grasped it, rather than explaining it and leaving me to it. For me, this is perfect, as over-thinking can mean I am too worried to ask people to repeat steps in fear of annoying them, but they are so friendly and understanding, and make sure I have no questions before leaving me to my devices. My first week has genuinely flown by, and I have loved meeting everyone, and am greatly looking forward to the future.