Project 353 Learning – Helen’s Story

helen blog pic

Helen C has lived in Bromley since a very young age, and became involved in London Transport Museum’s Project 353 through a partnership with housing association, Affinity Sutton. The project used the story of the restoration of Metropolitan Jubilee Carriage 353 as inspiration for a creative digital project supporting both digital inclusion and employment skills.

A single mum, Helen is interested in getting back into work now that her children are growing older. As the daughter of a transport enthusiast and someone very interested in history, Helen saw Project 353 as an ideal opportunity to learn more about the museum, improve her skills and to meet new people.

Helen, together with her group, had a tour from museum staff of both the  Covent Garden museum site and the museum depot at Acton, where they learnt all about the history and restoration of the carriage. Back in Bromley, the group were then asked to imagine themselves being given the task of marketing the Underground when it first started, and Helen was involved in producing the presentation and posters that resulted.

Through this contribution Helen was able to develop her computer skills, especially using PowerPoint. She had never used it before getting involved in the project, but became something of an expert in it through producing the content that the group used to develop their thoughts. Posters were a major part of this. Helen also used it to deliver a presentation to the group, for which she received very positive feedback. Helen was proud to exhibit her work to friends, guests and staff from both Affinity Sutton and London Transport Museum, showing off all she had learnt and achieved!

Helen particularly enjoyed the opportunity to visit the two museum sites, and in her own words, the Acton Depot was a “huge find”. She can’t wait to take her father to see it at the next open day, and her eight year-old son, Ben, is hugely jealous that he hasn’t been able to see it yet. However, there is no doubt in Helen’s mind that the icing on the cake was an opportunity to take a ride on Carriage 353 on the 13th January when it was hauled by Metropolitan Railway locomotive number 1 as part of the Underground 150 celebrations. She didn’t take her passenger wristband off for weeks afterwards! Helen loved the whole air of celebration, and was delighted to be part of an event that gave so much enjoyment to so many people.

What of the future? Helen told me that the 353 project “got her going” and “inspired her to get into new things”.  She would dearly like to be a Classroom Assistant, and has now applied for a local vacancy. The skills and approach that she learnt have reinvigorated her self-confidence. What would Helen say to others in a similar situation to herself, considering involvement in a similar project? “It’s a very positive thing to do if you want to grow your confidence, learn, have some new experiences and meet new people from different backgrounds. We weren’t thrown in at the deep end, everything was taken gradually, and it wasn’t in the least bit overwhelming.” She also commented on how supportive the museum staff were.

Probably the last word should also go to Helen: “It gave me a good kick up the bum!”

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