BLOG: International Women’s Day 2022

BLOG: International Women’s Day 2022


The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias; whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. We therefore feel today is an opportune time to support, thank and recognise the women that make up team Oakleaf, including both our staff and our volunteers, for their hard work and dedication over the last 25 years.

We wanted to celebrate the achievements of women in the workplace by shining a spotlight on two brilliant individuals: Toni and Chloe, Oakleaf’s Social Enterprise Assistants.

Not only have they been pivotal in the creation of our new social enterprise ‘Oakleaf At Home’, they are also talented artists and upholsterers responsible for the beautiful designs behind it – made to promote better mental health in our community.

Here, Toni and Chloe share their stories:

Toni’s Story:

“Anxiety and depression have always been present in my life. Many personal and traumatic events led to PTSD and addiction. I became socially anxious, unable to work or socialise with friends.

“I was first introduced to Oakleaf in 2014 and immediately felt safe among like-minded people. Oakleaf’s Upholstery course gave me a focus, a routine and slowly I gained confidence, which made it possible to return to work.”

Unfortunately, in 2020 Toni’s anxiety and panic attacks returned. So, she decided to reach out to Oakleaf once more for support.

“Art has always been very cathartic and rewarding to me so when Oakleaf announced an art competition I duly entered.”

Toni was one of two successful participants, which meant her artwork would be used for Oakleaf’s new social enterprise. This opened the door for a fantastic opportunity to become employed as an assistant with Oakleaf At Home.

Oakleaf At Home provided Toni with training in how to work for a small business through webinars and the day-to-day running of the business. We also provided photography training with professional photographer Chris Mann, who had volunteered his time and expertise; leading to Toni embracing the opportunity to learn how to take professional photographs of products for the Oakleaf At Home website.

“When I started working again, I was really worried about not being good enough, and anxious about not being able to work to a high enough standard. However, with the right support, Oakleaf has allowed me to really flourish in my role.

“It really is a team effort, and we all pull together and support one another. I truly feel like a valued member of the team.”

“I have been working for Oakleaf At Home for six months now and have gained a real sense of confidence in many areas of my life; all thanks to this fantastic opportunity Oakleaf has given me.”

Chloe’s Story:

“2015 was the first time I was able to learn how to paint with watercolours to a professional standard. I did so through Oakleaf Enterprise’s art classes. I then started an upholstery training course in 2017 where I got to hone in on my design skills.”

In the beginning, Chloe was working through feelings of not being good enough. However, she was eventually able to overcome her imposter syndrome by stepping out of her comfort zone in the form of volunteering at work events, attending meet-and-greets, and raising awareness of mental ill-health.

“I thoroughly enjoyed talking to a wide range of people from all walks of life and sharing my personal story with them. I wanted people to know just how invaluable Oakleaf’s support has been for me; it is incredibly rewarding when you are helping to push sale for example, knowing that every penny goes straight back into the charity.”

Chloe also used Oakleaf’s counselling services, which helped her to gain coping skills and a greater understanding of her feelings and emotions.

“It has always been my intention to help others, and I have felt a great sense of achievement knowing that I have done my part to help over 500 clients just by being myself.

“I have really flourished and grown in confidence under the caring guidance of Oakleaf. I have had the opportunity to learn how to run a small business, improve my photography skills, take part in webinars, and learn how to budget. I also feel like my feedback and opinions on how the business could evolve have always been respected; it has felt wonderful to be creative again and to have my ideas taken forward.”

Chloe has a now very achievable goal to become financially independent through setting up her own furniture design and upholstery business. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

“I have now completed 6 months of employment with Oakleaf at Home and have loved every second of it! Working here has truly empowered me and helped me realise just how much inner strength I possess and that I am fully capable of achieving my dreams.”

We are very grateful to Toni and Chloe for sharing their stories and experiences, and we hope this might inspire other women to follow their dreams this #InternationalWomensDay.

To find out more about Oakleaf At Home and to shop all of the products we have on offer, please visit:

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