Aspire reflects on Inspiring Successes

A guest post from VONNE Silver Membership+ supporters Aspire.

As the sun finally arrives and term ends for the long summer break it has been a chance for the women of Aspire to reflect on recent success. Aspire is a not-for-profit organisation based in Chester-le-Street town centre, Co. Durham. From their women only centre they deliver high-quality free and low cost learning, support and wellbeing, as well as structured volunteering opportunities, to a diverse range of women across the North East of England. Aspire’s learning offer continues to be very popular, as are the wellbeing and support services, and Aspire volunteers and lottery funded Supporting Sisters are a huge asset, trained and supported to assist with all our service delivery.  

Cricket World Cup Trophy Carriers

This June Aspire’s directors Janice Rokni and Jan Vincent were selected to carry the trophy for the Sri Lanka vs South Africa Cricket World Cup match at the Emirates Riverside Stadium. Jan said of the event: 

“carrying the cup was a real honour, after an incredible summer of women’s sport we were thrilled to be given the opportunity to promote Aspire at such an important sporting event.”

South Africa’s men’s side may have won the match, and England’s the cup, but after an incredible summer of women’s sport, (including a semi final place for the England women’s World Cup football and netball teams) it is going to be impossible to ignore the relevance of vital organisations such as Aspire that promote women’s health and wellbeing.

Why Women’s Centres Work: An Evidence Briefing

The value of Women’s centres was also recognised in a recent report: Why Women’s Centres Work: An Evidence Briefing (2019) which Aspire directly contributed to, authored in partnership with The National Lottery Community Fund (Women’s and Girls’ Initiative), the Child and Women Abuse Studies Unit, Tavistock Institute of Human Rights and DMSS Research. The report is designed to help commissioners, service providers, funders and professionals understand how Women’s Centres can play a key role in meeting the needs of women in their communities.

Adult Learner Awards

Finally on July 4th Aspire joined the Festival of Learning for the County Durham Council Adult Learning and Skills awards ceremony at Ramside Hall. The annual awards recognise success, achievements and commitment to learning across the region and Aspire again received numerous nominations for their learners, volunteers and tutors, but special mention should be given to the following who were Highly Commended:

  • Kay Walker – nominee Unsung Hero Award
  • Val Kilner – nominee Inspirational Tutor Award
  • Emma Wilkinson – nominee Volunteer of the Year Award
  • Angela Kerr – nominee Volunteer of the Year Award

Aspire itself was recognised as a Highly Commended entry in the Learning Project of the Year Award, however the evening belonged to Aspire woman Sarah Palmer who was overall winner in the Learning in the Digital Age category. Despite being 87 Sarah has been attending courses for the past 18 months, developing her IT skills from Back to Basics to Transferring Skills. Her nomination described her as ‘inspirational.’ In Sarah’s own words

“Aspire has helped me to recover from nine years of illness (and) loneliness, having no one to talk to, (it) has made me a whole person again. I am so grateful” There was further cause for celebration as Aspire’s drumming troupe Rhythm Sisters opened the awards, performing to an audience of over 250 guests.

Aspire will be open throughout the summer hosting Tuesday taster sessions and drop-ins for local women (see website, facebook or twitter @AspireHouse for details) and the learning courses will return in September.


Victoria Nunn 
Media, Marketing and Communications Officer, Aspire