Emma Cooke is a young woman, who works in a Tesco express store as a shift leader. I met her a few months ago and know her quite well now. She always asks a different question about the union and I could see straight away that she enjoyed learning.
When we started to discuss learning, her face and eyes lit up; even her voice changed tone and pitch and you could hear and see her excitement. Emma loves learning for the sheer pleasure it brings her. She doesn’t learn to improve her qualifications or to add to them, she does it to expand her mind and knowledge.
We sat down and discussed what interests she had and what she would like to learn more about. I told her all about Usdaw’s lifelong learning programme and explained that she could learn online and through distance learning courses. This was when she mentioned that she cares for a lady with dementia. She is not a family member but someone within the local community.
Emma’s level of commitment to her was admirable and she was continually trying to do that little bit extra. Although there is little Emma can do for the lady she cares for, as her condition is quite advanced, Emma does not stop trying. Watching this once active and alert lady’s mind deteriorate to the extent it has, has made Emma realise that she does not want that to happen to her. She realises the importance of keeping the mind active and busy, so she fills hers with learning and helping others.
Not surprisingly, Emma decided to start with mental health awareness and was also interested in the course about dementia. She also mentioned she would be quite interested in the equality and diversity course and in doing some language courses.
I could not help but laugh a little when she started listing all the things she would like to study, I told her to slow down and get the first one done first. But her fear that her mind will deteriorate or that she will develop dementia is so great, that she is determined to fill her spare time with anything that can keep her mind active.
I told her she would need a holiday at the end of her list of courses. That was when she laughed and said “why travel the world, when you can get a book from the library and learn all about it. You can learn about a country, a city, the people and its culture. You can even learn to speak their language”.
Who can argue with reasoning like that? Emma has been enrolled on to her first distance learning course and should soon start it and knowing Emma well, I’m guessing it will be the first of many.