Last chance to enter the Smart Works Leeds cycle challenge 2022 to support unemployed Yorkshire women in need back into work

The Leeds-based charity aims to raise much-needed funds to support more women than ever transform their lives and get back into the workplace this year. Stephanie Smith, who is taking part in the challenge next week, reports.

By Stephanie Smith
Thursday, 24th February 2022, 9:46 am
A team of five cyclists take to exercise bikes to complete their challenge for last year's Cycle for Smart Works.
A team of five cyclists take to exercise bikes to complete their challenge for last year's Cycle for Smart Works.

Get your 2022 fitness plan back on track while supporting a great cause, helping unemployed Yorkshire women back into the workplace.

Smart Works Leeds is looking for teams of five to sign up to its annual fundraising challenge, Cycle for Smart Works, and pledge to cycle a collective 500 miles, indoors or outdoors, starting on March 1 and finishing on March 8, 2022 - International Women’s Day.

The money raised will support Smart Works’ mission of helping unemployed women find employment and transform their lives by giving them the clothing, coaching and confidence they need to succeed at interview.

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A team of five cyclists take to the great outdoors to complete their challenge for last year's Cycle for Smart Works.

Smart Works has eight centres across the UK, and thousands of people across the UK are expected to take part in this year’s event, making up teams of five by gathering together colleagues, friends, sports teammates and family members. Last year, the challenge raised more than £250,000 nationally.

The Yorkshire branch of the charity is based at Mabgate Mills on the outskirts of Leeds city centre, where staff and a team of dedicated volunteers dress and coach the women referred to them. Smart Works Leeds is asking members of the Yorkshire business community to gather together to form teams of five to cycle next week, or it could be groups of friends or family or those from Yorkshire sporting, activity and community groups.

Last year, Yorkshire cyclists raised more than £14,000 for Smart Works Leeds. This year, however, the charity says that the need for its service is greater than ever, and it hopes this will be its biggest fundraiser ever, with more riders, more miles and more money raised. Thousands of pounds was also raised by a sale of donated designer fashion. There will be another sale of designer clothing in June. Contact details below for any retailers who would like to take part.

All the money raised in Yorkshire will help support local women into employment, enabling them to gain financial independence and start a new chapter.

Former Smart Works Leeds client Wynitta.

Former client Wynitta came to Smart Works Leeds in 2021 and was supported by the charity with both coaching and clothing, and encouraged to apply for roles she said she “never would have dreamed of”.

To other women considering accessing support from Smart Works, she said: “You should go for it. This is an absolutely fantastic opportunity, and an even better service. Whatever anxieties you may be feeling, the staff and coaches at Smart Works Leeds will enable you to overcome this.”

Kate Stephens, Smart Works CEO, said: “The generosity of last year’s riders and their supporters blew us away but with the increasing demand for our services we need to make this our most successful fundraiser ever. If you have ever thought about getting involved or you are looking for a new challenge, I can’t recommend this enough. By taking on the challenge you will be playing a part in another woman’s success story and there isn’t a better feeling.”

Whether cycling indoors or outdoors, Cycle for Smart Works is a fun way to get active, fundraise and make a real difference. Riders up for the challenge can register at - all they need is a team of five and the drive to hit their £500 and 500-mile target.

Smart Works Leeds former client Aisha Mian-Rehan is cycling this year to help hit the Yorkshire target. Aisha, who now works for the charity, said: “Our two-hour appointment really does give women the self-belief to get the job and change their lives, and we need to fund-raise to ensure we can keep doing this for as many women as possible.”

If you are not able to cycle yourself, you can sponsor Aisha hereOpened in November, 2019, Smart Works Leeds provides unemployed women in need with complete outfits of high-quality clothes for job interviews, plus access to one-to-one interview training and career coaching. The charity says that the impact of the pandemic on female unemployment means that its service is needed more than ever and it aims to help more than 500 women in the year ahead. The charity is expanding and looking for staff including a fundraising manager and a centre manager (maternity leave cover). For details, or to volunteer as a dresser or interview coach, email: [email protected]

Registration to take part in Cycle for Smart Works is free and each team will receive a Smart Works Welcome Pack with fundraising advice and a guide to completing the challenge. The first 100 teams to raise over £500 will receive a limited-edition Cycle for Smart Works T-shirt, with additional prizes on offer for the top fundraisers. Email: [email protected] as soon as possible if you would like to take part (and for details of the Smart Works Leeds designer sale in June). If you cannot get together a team of five, you might be able to join others also looking for a team. Or you could sponsor Stephanie and the Smart Works Leeds team here.

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Veteran Cycle for Smart Works participant William Torrie said: “I have taken part in Cycle for Smart Works for the last four years and every year the challenge is better than the year before. It’s a chance to connect with my colleagues and friends and know that, while we’re having fun, we’re also raising money for an important charity that supports women at a crucial moment in their lives.”