From education to employment

‘I’m here to lift up my community so nobody feels alone’

After experiencing homelessness and challenges growing up, Lea Gibson is determined to create real change in her community.

She combined her life experiences with her Open University qualifications to launch a business that provides support and wellbeing services for those in need.

“I want to make sure that people never feel alone and they have someone to talk to,” said Lea, who is 31 and lives in London. “That’s what I needed when I was younger.”

Making positive change

Lea’s passion for helping others stems from her own challenges growing up.

“I grew up in quite a turbulent household and experienced lots of challenges as a young person. I wanted to help people, so I started my organisation called Anthro Vision,” she explained.

Lea has built her business from the ground up and now provides wellbeing workshops, homeless outreach and mentoring services. During the pandemic, she launched ‘People with Periods’, an inclusive initiative to combat period poverty in her local area, delivering free wellbeing care packages for those in need.

“We just want to make sure there’s unity in the community,” said Lea. “That there’s always someone there to support those who need it.

“I’m trying to show that people aren’t alone, as I know what that feels like.”

‘This wouldn’t be possible without the OU’

Determined Lea knew that a degree would not only change her life – but give her the tools needed to create change in her community. She first enrolled to study BA (Hons) Combined Social Sciences with the OU while homeless and says the experience and the support she received from her tutors helped her to start believing in herself.

“I wouldn’t have been able to see my potential without the backing of the OU,” she said. “The OU literally changed the way my life is.

“My tutors were absolutely amazing. They would give me tips and tricks about how to study and make sure I had the resources I needed. The OU student community was also fantastic.

“My advice to anyone thinking about studying with the OU is just do it, give yourself the opportunity to try something new. You are capable of more than you think.”

Building confidence and a new career

Lea enjoyed her studies so much that she went on to complete her Master’s in Psychology with the OU in 2020.

“Everything I learned from my two qualifications enabled me to learn techniques, skills and theory to put into practice in the real world,” she said.

“The Open University built my confidence a lot and essentially gave me the skills that I need now. It also gave me a boost when I was previously applying for jobs. Open University degrees are world recognised. So any employment I’ve been in, the employers think it’s amazing.”

Reflecting on her journey so far, Lea is so proud of everything she’s achieved and says her family is just as delighted. She said:

“I feel really, really proud of myself. My mum thinks my degree is amazing. She’s always pushed me to be more and do more and support the community.”

Looking ahead, Lea is focused on building her business so she can continue supporting even more people across her community. She knows that without access to education, care or support, that so many people can be left behind.

“The key thing for us at Anthro Vision is making sure that those who are invisible are visible again.”

Generation Change: Ones to Watch

Lea is one of the incredible OU students featured in ‘Ones To Watch’, the co-branded docuseries with the OU and MTV Generation Change.

In each episode, host Henrie Kwushue meets the OU students that are not only changing their futures – but are busy tackling global issues related to the environment, equality and health. Watch the second episode featuring Lea now on YouTube.

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