Budding photographers, amateur artists and green fingered friends gathered together today to thank the people who give them opportunities to learn and find employment, despite their disabilities.

Ellingham Employment Services has been providing education and training for adults with special needs in Waltham Forest and Redbridge since 1984.

Today, the company marked their anniversary with a party and awards ceremony at Vestry House Museum in Walthamstow Village.

At present EES helps around 80 people in the borough with their ‘I Can Ventures’ programme.

Adults who are battling learning and physical disabilities are given the chance to train in photography, cookery, computer sciences as well as a range of practical subjects such as health and safety and life skills.

Mark Kirk CEO said that he set out to change lives three decades ago to this day.

He said: “We are like one big family.

“We take people with significant issues who are furthest away from the employment market and help them to gain skills.

“We do job coaching, CV writing, one on one sessions and we work with employers who will take them on such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

“Some people who come to us may never be able to work but everyone is given the opportunity to do vocational courses and training. Eighty-seven percent of people said that if they didn’t come to us then they would just stay at home.”

Service users say that they have gained new skills and confidence and had the opportunity to make friends.

Ismail Vawda, 40, from Leytonstone has learnt photography through the ‘I Can’ programme. His paintings have also been displayed in the Tate Modern Art Gallery through the programme.

He said: “It’s really good. I have done cooking and art and photography.”

Mr Vawda’s sister Fatima said that it has given him a real purpose and goals to strive for over the last 18 years.

Matthew Bolding, 39, says that he would recommend it to people in Waltham Forest.

He said: “It would be nice for more people to come and enjoy themselves and be happy.

“It is really good and I have learnt a lot.”

Both men attend a weekly ‘Speak Up’ meeting which allows service users to have a say on activities and programmes.

For more information visit http://www.ellingham.org.uk/.