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Transcript: Episode 2 – Francess Tagoe
Vic T – Host: 00:05 This is the strong Manchester Women podcast is series of inspiring conversations with the change makers, today’s leaders and trailblazers who make our city and beyond a better place to live, work and play.
Vic T – Host: 00:29
Now, Manchester has a history of very strong women, women who are forces to be reckoned with, women who push the envelope, start movements, smash glass ceilings, stand up for their rights and turn the wheels of progress. So join me. Your host Vic Elizabeth Turnbull as I speak to these women, women who you may not have heard of before, the underground heroes, who are changing lives and making a lasting impact in our communities.
Vic T – Host: 01:11 In this episode we have…
Francess Tagoe: 01:12 My name is Francess Tagoe
Vic T – Host: 01:15 and we talk about challenges,
Francess Tagoe: 01:16 We’re trying to minimise poverty and deprivation, but at the same time we try to make sure that the charity is sustainable.
Vic T – Host: 01:23 Reaching out for help,
Francess Tagoe: 01:25 I might sound strong myself right now, but I can assure you that there were moments when I haven’t been.
Vic T – Host: 01:31 Role models,
Francess Tagoe: 01:31 She was a fierce leader, so under her leadership I just absorbed everything that I could from her.
Vic T – Host: 01:38 and lots more.
Vic T – Host: 01:39 I join Francis at The Tree of Life Centre in Wythenshawe, where she works.
Francess Tagoe: 01:46 I have the pleasure of looking after The Tree of Life Centre,
Vic T – Host: 01:49 You’re the CEO!
Francess Tagoe: 01:49 CEO, stroke, general manager, stroke maintenance woman, stroke general dog’s body stroke…
Francess Tagoe: 01:56
The Tree of Life Centre, is a centre that we all have come to love for the wonderful things that we offer to the community. The aim of the charity really is to minimise poverty and deprivation and to support hard to reach families and people that are on the fringes that need additional help and support to get back on their feet. The flagship project that we’re known for really is our furniture reuse project. In terms of the projects that we run, we have, as I said, a furniture reuse project. We also have a food project and within the food project we have a community cafe and we also have a community food bank. We have a learning centre, we have a job club…
Francess Tagoe: 02:40
We try and equip people with IT skills. We have a host of health and wellbeing projects. Just a variety of different things that help people minimise social isolation and give people a sense of purpose and a reason to come out of their homes and interacts with the wider community. People are able to access a wide range of items that otherwise you would not be able to if you are struggling to make ends meet. We are very, very fortunate to work with the breadth of partners and suppliers and supporters that we work with, that believe in the charity. They help to make the work of the charity a reality. And we’re also very, very fortunate that we’re able to help the number of people that come through our doors. So, on a daily basis, we probably have about 300 people that access our services. We’re very proud of the work that we do here.
Vic T – Host: 03:38 That’s so much as well, so much and so many people!
Francess Tagoe: 03:42 It’s a bit of a madhouse! But we all take pride in the fact that we know that we able to make an immediate difference and immediate impact. When you come to The Tree of Life Centre you don’t have to wait for weeks on end. We have a very quick and efficient turnaround.
Vic T – Host: 03:57 The Tree of Life Centre is doing brilliant So many projects, so many people that are benefiting. But I’m really interested to know from Fran, is how the Centre’s affected when it comes to government cuts, and a competitive funding environment. Did these things have an impact on The Tree of Life Centre?
Francess Tagoe: 04:19
Absolutely. It’s so very hard to get the figures right so to speak. It’s a little bit of a challenge because we’re trying to minimise poverty and deprivation, but at the same time we try to make sure that the charity is sustainable and that the charity is a viable asset that would be here in years to come. At the moment, we’re very proud to say that we are 65% self sustaining. So that means that we need 35% of our income to be generated through external funding, but still getting that 35% can be a little bit of a challenge in the current funding climate. It’s very difficult to be self sustaining. So you have to constantly look for ways, creative ways, to keep the charity alive, to keep the charity going.
Vic T – Host: 05:12 As a Charity CEO, I imagine it’s difficult who come up with new ideas and projects but still stay true to the charity’s values?
Francess Tagoe: 05:21
It’s getting that mix right. For example, we know that if anybody comes through our doors in terms of their basic general items that people need in order for them to make a home, they must and should be able to have access to those items at affordable prices. So if somebody comes to The Tree of Life Centre, they should be able to have access to beds where possible at 10 pounds, 15 pounds, 20 pounds. They should also be able to have to tables and chairs where possible for 5 pounds and 10 pounds. Do you know what I mean?
Francess Tagoe: 06:03 So as long as we know that we are not moving too far from the values of the of the charity, but at the same time, if we have say a high street supplier that has given us brand new items that maybe in the high streets, it’s been sold for for 2000 pounds, it would be foolish of the charity to say that because we’re a charity that we will sell those items for 5 pounds and 2 pounds and 3 pounds.
Francess Tagoe: 06:30
So that’s a way of being a little bit creative. So a high street retailer might say, ‘we want to support The Tree of Life Centre and we will give them the end of line products’. We would gratefully receive them and we will retail those in terms of trying to minimise or prevent people from going to traditional retailers, that would mean that they’re going to get into debt. We would make those items affordable. So they may not be 5 pounds and 10 pounds and 20 pounds. They might be a 100 pounds or 150 pounds. And for people that are not used to coming through our doors and seeing items for a hundred pounds, they’re forgetting that if they go to traditional retailers, they’ll be paying a thousand pounds for those items.
Vic T – Host: 07:15 Francess, you don’t just manage this wonderful centre here do you? You do much more stuff…
Francess Tagoe: 07:20 Yes, I do.
Francess Tagoe: 07:22
Outside of The Tree of Life Centre, I enjoy preaching. I do a lot of preaching in my local church. I’ve done a lot of visits to prisons with female prisons in particular. So talking to, and empowering and motivating, encouraging women in prison. And I do annual ladies’ retreats, so we take roughly about a hundred women, to a lovely hotel and we have a wonderful empowerment retreat and we try and support women to have that little bit of time away from, from home to rethink, regroup and refocus.
Vic T – Host: 08:01 It comes across as, you’re very empowered by empowering others, aren’t you?
Francess Tagoe: 08:05 I absolutely, I love it. I have been empowered by others, so whatever opportunity I have, I feel that I have to be able to share that with others.
Vic T – Host: 08:16 Tell me about the time that you found out that you were selected as a Strong Manchester Woman? How did it feel?
Francess Tagoe: 08:24
It was a moment of disbelief, to be honest with you. I received the telephone call to say that I had been nominated or voted or whatever as a Strong Manchester Woman, I was going along with my day’s job and as I said, The Tree of Life Centre is quite a vibrant centre to say the least. And when the phone call came, I had to ask the question two or three times. I said, are you sure you’ve got the right person? I was very pleased once it actually sank in, and I was very honoured and I felt very privileged that someone thought that the work that I do was worthy of the recognition. Yes, and I feel very, very proud, very, very humbled and proud to be recognised.
Vic T – Host: 09:09 Do you see yourself as a role model?
Francess Tagoe: 09:12
I do. I do see myself as a role model. I think sometimes it’s difficult to accept praise. I don’t see myself as better than anybody else. Yes. I wake up every morning and I do my best. I may not always succeed, but I do my best to make sure that I can influence or impact in a positive way and make a change in somebody’s lives. Not just in The Tree of Life Centre, but I think also in the different things that I am affiliated with and in the different things that I do outside of the Centre, even in the lives of my children. So I do my best. I think there is so many strong role models all around us, wherever we are. I think anybody that is doing the best that they possibly can do to affect change and to make a difference is a champion, is a role model.
Vic T – Host: 10:06 Who are your role models?
Francess Tagoe: 10:07
Oh Wow, I know everybody says this, but inevitably I think my biggest cheerleader and my biggest champion without a shadow of a doubt, is my mother. She’s a very strong, powerful woman, who was a single mother and has raised two beautiful girls. I think we owe our lives to our mom. And as a Christian, I would be wrong not to acknowledge the fact that I can’t do anything without the strength that I know I get from God. God inevitably is my cheerleader and he’s my strength, so he’s definitely my role model. My other role models I guess are my friends and if I start naming names I will forget a few and then I’ll get into trouble.
Vic T – Host: 11:00 The wide range of Fran’s role models just goes to show that inspiration, influence…role models, can come from everywhere. I wanted to ask Fran how important she thinks it is to surround yourself with good eggs.
Francess Tagoe: 11:16
It is very, very important because you will have good days and you will have bad days and I think for the good days it’s nice to have people that will cheer you on, that will celebrate with you and that will just keep you going. But I think especially for the bad days, it is nice to have somebody that believes in you, somebody that will encourage you and somebody that will help you see the best in you and keep you focused and grounded and that is not a free to tell you the truth. The truth, good or bad. A strong support system is, is very, very important.
Vic T – Host: 11:55 What if someone’s listening now thinking, I’ve not got that. How do I find that?
Francess Tagoe: 12:02 You know, that’s why organisations like ours exist. There are many people that have walked through our doors that thought they didn’t have a reason to wake up in the morning, that thought that they didn’t have a reason to get out with their doors, because of a lack of a social support system.
Francess Tagoe: 12:19
I think one of the greatest strengths that a human being can have is the strength to ask for help and support. I don’t think it’s a weakness. I think it’s a source of strength that you realise that you have within yourself when you say, ‘I need help’. I think some people sound strong in the moment, but you haven’t seen them in their moment of weakness. You weren’t there when they were in the midnight hour crying. You weren’t there in the midnight hour when they felt lost. I might sound strong myself right now, but I can assure you that there were moments when I haven’t been. There were times when I felt very vulnerable. There were times when I felt very alone when I felt very ashamed, when I felt that I couldn’t make it, and I felt that I couldn’t do this on my own, and those were the times as I said, when all of the people that I’ve mentioned before, were there to pick me up, were there to cheer me on.
Francess Tagoe: 13:18
They see the strength and the resilience and the source of power that is hidden inside of you. When you fail to see that within yourself, when you have those moments that you think, ‘I cannot do this’. That is the time when you cannot afford to lie down in your bedroom, like I did at one time. But I just want to encourage you, that that is the time for you not to stay isolated and not to feel knocked back, but to find the strength and the resilience to get up and know that you can. You can do it. I dare you to dream. I dare you to rise up because there’s an eagle inside of you that is waiting to soar and you can do it. If you dare to believe in yourself, you can do it. If you dare to believe in your future and the potential that lies within
Vic T – Host: 14:10 I’m ready to go! That was beautiful! Yes. Yes Francess!
Vic T – Host: 14:17 Has it been a straight path for you to go from job to job, to being a CEO or has there been twists and turns along the way?
Francess Tagoe: 14:26
There have definitely been twists and turns. When I left school, I went to university and when I went to university, I studied business studies and marketing. I remember my one of my tutors saying to me that I wouldn’t make it. They said to me that ‘I should just do what my people do’, whatever that means, and I should just not continue with my studies. Well I tell you, those were the most motivating was that anybody could ever say to me. I was more determined because of those words to succeed and to do well. So I left that university and I went to a different university and not only did I graduate at the same time as everybody else in the same year group as I was in, but I excelled and did better than any of the other students that were in the same year group as I was.
Francess Tagoe: 15:25
So I left and I got a brilliant job for a good reputable media organisation. I had another wonderful, wonderful female boss. She was a fierce leader and a lot of people didn’t necessarily appreciate her leadership, but I just absolutely loved her. And she was another role model that I had. So under her leadership, I just absorbed everything that I could from her and I left Trinity Mirror because I wanted to do more in the voluntary sector. I had various roles for Voluntary Action, Manchester, the Geo project and so on, until I then finally saw this role at the The Tree of Life Centre as the General Manager. And I just could not believe the job description. Everything inside of me was full of excitement. When I saw the role and I said, ‘Lord, if I could get this job’, everything about the job spoke to me! (laughs)
Francess Tagoe: 16:28
When I started the role it wasn’t easy. Because people sort of doubted my ability because I was in an environment that people didn’t know who I was, what I was capable of. I had some fairly challenging comments to say the least. And I don’t want to dwell on negativity, but all I can say is that six years on, I am very proud of the achievements that the charity has made since my tenure. And, and I’m very proud of the growth and the direction that the charity has has taken. And I’m very proud that people who sort of were hesitant and reluctant, people are now able to see the difference that, you know, that I have contributed to the growth and development and success of the charity.
Vic T – Host: 17:19 It’s almost as if the naysayers and the people that have told you, ‘you can’t do this’, make you more determined to succeed.
Francess Tagoe: 17:27
Absolutely, and if anything, I think that’s one of the things that I want to say to your listeners that sometimes if we sit and wallow in self pity and in criticism and in put downs and in people that have negative things to say, then you would not do anything and you will not achieve anything. But I want to say to people that, use that as a source of strength, for that to motivate you and let that elevate you to the next level. So don’t allow negativity to keep you down. Don’t allow negativity to wear you down. Train your ear to shut down negativity, focus on your vision and what you want to achieve. And Trust me, you will succeed.
Vic T – Host: 18:13 I feel powerful!
Vic T – Host: 18:15 What’s the biggest challenge that you currently face?
Francess Tagoe: 18:21
I think the biggest challenge that I currently face is being a single mom of a teenage boy! (laughs) Oh Gosh. No, but it’s true. I love being a parent. I dreamt and prayed for the joy and for the experience of being a mom and there is no greater gift, no greater pleasure. But I think, every time you enter into new phase of parenting it’s, it’s new isn’t it? It’s a territory that you haven’t encountered before. So yes, I’m enjoying the challenges that come with being a mother.
Vic T – Host: 19:02 What’s your proudest moment?
Francess Tagoe: 19:02
My proudest moment was the day that I gave birth to my first child because I was told that I couldn’t conceive so that was my miracle moment and then obviously I had a second child and that was my second miracle moment. I have to keep reminding myself of that when they come home and they… And I want to scream and say ‘you are my miracle!’ (laughs)
Vic T – Host: 19:26 They can really play that as well. Like, ‘Don’t shout at me, I’m your miracle!” (laughs)
Francess Tagoe: 19:33 No they don’t! (laughs)
Vic T – Host: 19:40 Fran’s a busy woman with so many responsibilities, she leads, she’s an influencer, she’s a mother. I’m really interested to hear how she manages to look after herself on top of all that.
Francess Tagoe: 19:56 I enjoy holidays. Some people think that I spoil myself. Well, that’s my big thing. Every opportunity that I have, not that I can necessarily afford it, but it’s the way that I look after me. So as long as I can afford it, you know, we try and go away and I look for little pamper opportunities. I like having massages, so I like going for little treats and I like going out for meals as well with friends.
Vic T – Host: 20:23 Food, massages and sun? That’s like the top three..
Vic T – Host: 20:25 Is there any bits of advice you’d give young Francis knowing what you know now?
Francess Tagoe: 20:33 You know, just yesterday for some reason I was thinking about this, I was thinking about my life and I was thinking about if I could change anything, absolutely anything about my life. Is there anything that I would change?
Francess Tagoe: 20:46
And my answer. Absolutely no, I wouldn’t change the challenges that I’ve experienced and trust me, there were many. I wouldn’t change because I believe that my challenges have made me strong and they’ve made me embrace the different perspectives of life that I now see. They’ve made me appreciate and love people the way that I do. So I wouldn’t change absolutely any path of this journey that I have been on.
Vic T – Host: 21:19 So what you’d say to young Francess is, ‘regret nothing Francess!’
Francess Tagoe: 21:22 Live life to the fullest and stay on track and all things will work out for your good.
Vic T – Host: 21:31 Reflecting back on your own journey, could you be as bold as Fran to say that you regret nothing? Now Manchester is a place where Fran’s worked all over. I wanted to know if Manchester makes it easy for Fran to do what she does.
Francess Tagoe: 21:52 I love Manchester. I absolutely love Manchester. I actually went to school in London, but every time I go back to London and I don’t want my London, friends to hear this and think that I’m a traitor, but every time I visit London, I feel like a visitor in London. Manchester is just home to me. Manchester is just so comfortable. Manchester just means the world to me and I just absolutely, absolutely love everything that Manchester stands for. I know we have our challenges and I know we have a lot of work still to do, but I just think Manchester is one of the best cities in the world. Cut me inside out and you’ll find Manchester (laughs).
Vic T – Host: 22:46 So, who are your strong Manchester Women?
Francess Tagoe: 22:48
Some you may know, and some you may not know. One of my strong Manchester Women, the one that you don’t know is somebody that’s very close to my heart. Her name is Amanda Lawrence and I’m not gonna say why, but she knows who she is. Another is Sharon Amesu and I’m sure a lot of people know her now in Manchester, but she knows why. She’s a very strong Manchester woman to me. Another is Pastor Daisy Bailey. She is just a phenomenal woman. Finally, another strong Manchester woman to me is Sarah Klueter from Wythenshawe Community Housing Group. She’s a wonderful woman. One more. Another absolutely strong Manchester woman to me is a lady called Francia Davies I’m not going to say who she is to me, she’s just a phenomenal, strong Manchester woman.
Vic T – Host: 23:44 And what do all these women have in common, apart from being strong women?
Francess Tagoe: 23:48 I love their resilience. I love their passion. I love the way that they serve. I love the way that they do what they do, that they stay true to their values. I love the way that they stay true to their self. I love the way that they’re unbias.
Vic T – Host: 24:09 Maybe that’s something that you could do, have a little think about who are your strong women and what are the qualities that they share? We’re getting towards the end of the interview now, I want to find out from Fran, how you can support the work that she does.
Francess Tagoe: 24:27
Oh, we need as much love and support as possible, so we are always looking for financial support. Not that that should be the first thing that I start with, but we are a charity, as I said before, that is here to help and support people and is open and accessible to anybody. Anybody who needs any help and support, even if you don’t feel that you fit into that category. We’re always looking for volunteers to partner with us and for any corporate people that want to help us, that want to support us, that want to walk on the journey with us. Please give us a call if you have any unwanted items at home that you want to donate to, a worthwhile charity. We are the only charity that you should be thinking about. That’s The Tree of Life Centre. Without partnership help and support, we will not be able to do the things that we do. So we need your help. We need your support. T
Vic T – Host: 25:25 Thank you so much, Francis. You’ve been so inspiring, so lovely.
Francess Tagoe: 25:28 Thank you.
Vic T – Host: 25:34
This podcast is inspired by the annual strong Manchester women campaign. The campaign celebrates the achievements and impacts of a bunch of incredible women doing brilliant things. The 14 women profiled in this series were selected for the 2019 campaign. To find out more about all of the women featured in this podcast, and the campaign, visit the Pankhurst Trust dot org. To find out more about The Tree of Life Centre, and how you can get involved, visit their website, Tree of Life Centre dot org dot uk.
Vic T – Host: 26:16
We’d also love to hear what you think about the stories that we’ve shared with you. Who are your strong Manchester women, anything, connect with us on Twitter using the Hashtag #StrongMCRwomen. Big thanks to Manchester City Council and The Pankhurst Trust for supporting this podcast series and a big thank you of course to Francis for her time. The Strong Manchester Women podcast is a MIC Media production and is presented, produced and edited by me, Vic Elizabeth Turnbull. For more information, visit MIC Media dot co dot uk The podcast has been made possible through the Centenary Cities Legacy Fund.
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