Home » Mentee Maxine talks to us about film-making, dyslexia and her HDN experience
Mentee Maxine talks to us about film-making, dyslexia and her HDN experience
One of the cornerstones of our work here at the Housing Diversity Network is our Staff Mentoring Programme; and the people who work with us on the SMP are the lifeblood of our organisation, mentors and mentees alike.
Maxine Igbinedion is Engagement Officer at Homes for Lambeth and was a star of our 2020/21 SMP programme, so we were delighted when she took time out of her hectic schedule to tell us what she’s been up to.
Maxine hasn’t had a typical career progression in the housing sector, about as far from it as you could imagine! Born in Stoke-on-Trent, Maxine moved to London with her family where she went to school and university, worked in a chocolate factory, discovered in early adulthood she had dyslexia and then became a ground-breaking film-maker before embarking on a career in housing, where she has spent the last 12 years.
“In primary school I didn’t know I had dyslexia, and neither did my family or teachers and I spent a lot of time just looking out of the window and wondering what was going on,” she says. Maxine’s father knew she was a clever girl and implored her to read more but that wasn’t the answer.
“I failed my first try at university and when I was 21 I got a job in a chocolate factory but my brother told me to try again, so I enrolled on a Film and Media Studies course at East London University.”
She had to pay her way through university but had a breakthrough in her first year, when she met writer Stella Cottrell who has worked extensively with students from diverse backgrounds and those with dyslexia, and that’s when Maxine’s diagnosis was made; and support was on the way. She says: “The university put in a support plan and bought me equipment to help, and that was a real turning point.”
In 2004 Maxine became the first black woman to produce a film on dyslexia, about a boy who was laughed at in school because he couldn’t read, which received a mention in the House of Commons. She went on to make films on other subjects including dementia, but in a difficult industry to make money Maxine moved towards a career in housing, which latterly brought her to Lambeth in June 2020.
While her day to day job involves responding to residents’ issues and engaging with those soon to be re-housed, Maxine has lost none of her creative instinct and passion to help young people, launching the Homes for Lambeth Youth Festival, which is due to take place in August, to bring young people together, aged 13 to 30, in a fun forum where they can talk and learn about Wellbeing, Housing and Art and Creativity.
“We want to help young people find out more about themselves, their friendships, peer pressure, sexuality, how to get on the housing ladder and also how to get their talents out there and make money from them,” she says. “We’re holding a photography competition and employing interns to send information out. We want young people to design the festival and get the most out of it.”
Maxine had heard of HDN before her HR manager suggested she apply to the SMP, and helped her with the application. And she tells us how the programme has boosted her confidence to new levels.
“I was so busy and working late in the evenings, but the pile of work never got smaller and that’s the first way HDN helped me. It’s been a great experience and it’s changed my life completely. I was taught by my mentor, Donna Brown, how to look at myself and have courage to make the changes which will help in terms of organisation and sometimes being able to say ‘no’. She gave me a personality test and helped me to write my goals.
“It was nice to have someone I could talk to, away from the workplace; Donna makes me ask myself why things are how they are, and the sessions have really helped.”
Maxine confesses she sometimes lacks confidence in big groups and, when she had a presentation to do; Donna spoke to her beforehand to check she had everything ready, and went to support Maxine at the presentation. “I’d never had that kind of support before,” says Maxine. “It was wonderful to know HDN were there and it made me realise how important it is to be part of something”.
So what’s next for Maxine? “Well, I’m looking forward to my next challenge. Donna has helped me with my CV and I have the chance to apply for more senior positions, nothing just yet, but now I have the confidence to try.”
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