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'I was lost' - how two migrants built a life and business in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 09:18 27 June 2019 | UPDATED: 09:56 27 June 2019

Greg Kozlowski and Julisa Vargos. Picture: Archant

Greg Kozlowski and Julisa Vargos. Picture: Archant

Archant

Starting a business can be a daunting prospect especially if English is a second or even third language.

Reporter MARC BETTS spoke to two people who have moved to Thetford and are starting a new chapter in their lives as they launch a their own businesses.

Greg Kozlowski, Lyn Keane and Julisa Vargos at Full Steam Ahead in Thetford. Picture: ArchantGreg Kozlowski, Lyn Keane and Julisa Vargos at Full Steam Ahead in Thetford. Picture: Archant

Julisa Vargas moved to Norfolk 10 years ago with her husband as a development consultant in Norwich. Originally from Barcelona the 47-year-old is able to speak Spanish and Portuguese which allowed her to translate and help those in England understand how businesses work in Latin America.

But she was recently made redundant after 14 years when the company decided to relocate to the USA.

She said: "I was lost, I didn't know what to do. I did not feel like going back to Spain and I knew I wanted to do something different.

"I found some information on the internet about becoming an online teacher and I received the opportunity to be an English teacher but I would have had to move to China which I didn't think my husband would like. That's when I thought instead of English I can teach Spanish.

Greg Kozlowski, Lyn Keane and Julisa Vargos at Full Steam Ahead in Thetford. Picture: ArchantGreg Kozlowski, Lyn Keane and Julisa Vargos at Full Steam Ahead in Thetford. Picture: Archant

"I was at the job centre and they advised me to talk to Full Steam Ahead who were able to help me register my business."

Full Steam Ahead have been able to help Ms Vargas sort finances, register the business, set-up a website and complete more courses including a two-day workshop.

The charity, based at the Thetford Charles Burrell Centre, helps people get back into work by offering work placements and helps to teach new skills and gain qualifications.

"I'm just about to start hosting Spanish taster classes in Thetford before starting six week courses that will allow holiday makers to communicate themselves," Ms Vargas added.

Greg Kozlowski hopes to be able to translate books into Polish. Picture: ArchantGreg Kozlowski hopes to be able to translate books into Polish. Picture: Archant

"I really want people to enjoy their holidays' more by being able to chat with the locals and enjoy more of the place they are visiting, just having more fun.

"Before meeting Full Steam Ahead I was completely lost, I didn't know where to start. I had plans in place but it was getting it underway."

Being an online teacher does not restrict her to just working around Thetford, Ms Vargas is able to teach anyone around the world.

"It depends on the time difference but I like the idea," she added, "I have the free time to organise my agenda around my personal life also I can choose my customers.

Julisa Vargos has set-up her own website to teach English, Spanish and Portuguese. Picture: ArchantJulisa Vargos has set-up her own website to teach English, Spanish and Portuguese. Picture: Archant

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"In my previous job I was translating documents, contracts and websites. The idea is to write books and to work with businesses looking to invest in Spain."

Greg Kozlowski, 33, came to England from Gdansk, North Poland, on holiday but fell in love with the country. Now, 10 years later he has created a life for himself in Thetford.

Mr Kozlowski started an IT apprenticeship but when that did not work out Full Steam Ahead offered him another option.

He said: "I started an IT apprenticeship which was one of my strengths and the second one was language skills.

"I didn't have a big plan, just delivering businesses cards to shops and set-up a site but Full Steam Ahead gave me direction and know I have attended a workshop and it's going really well.

"My aim is to help people will residential citizenship, applying for banks, dealing with the council and interpreting with the police."

Mr Kzlowski said Lyn Keane from Full Steam Ahead had been a good mentor and was able to steer him towards the right courses.

"I remember when I came to England I had the language in my head, but to speak and use it was a different thing," Mr Kozlowski added.

"It was really stressful at first so I understand when people have problems with it. The idea was to bring communities together and break the language barrier.

"I enjoy Terry Pratchett - I was trying to translate his books into Polish but it is quite the challenge. When I first came to England I wanted to learn English to make life easier but no-one wants to speak it [in the Polish community].

"I threw myself in the deep end and started living with English people and started to learn seven words a day and build sentences."

Ms Vargas and Mr Kozlowski are now working towards the launch of their websites and building contacts in the community.

Full Steam Ahead is funded by Lift, European Social Fund, and Breckland Council.

For more information about Full Steam Ahead go to www.charlesburrellcentre.org.uk.

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