A housing association resident from Hope Valley in Derbyshire is on course for a BA in Theology after securing a grant from his landlord.

Denis Haywood, aged 61, a committed Christian who suffers from Dyslexia, says his prayers were answered when his application for a Guinness Partnership Education Award proved successful. The funding has enabled him to progress onto his second year of study at Manchester’s Nazarene Theological College, after he funded the first year from his own savings.

Denis and his wife Virginia, aged 68, have lived at their Guinness Northern Counties property on Michlow Drive since November 2003. The couple had previously lived at Cliff College, in Calver, where Denis had worked as a Janitor until being made redundant in 2003.

Having lost both his job and the roof over his head, he searched high and low for work but without success. Determined to make himself useful however, he took up voluntary work in his community, firstly helping older people with their gardening and then working in a Christian bookshop in Matlock for over six years before embarking on his Degree course.

“I was surprised and delighted to find I had won the award, especially as I didn’t at first think I would be eligible to apply” said Denis. “Along with my other Christian friends I had been praying about how I might be able to afford to continue my studies and I was overwhelmed and very grateful to find that my prayers had been answered.”

Denis knows that his Dyslexia will mean that he will take longer to complete the Degree but is determined to achieve his goal. “When I complete it I will be well over the age of retirement” he says “but I will be looking to use what I have learned, if only in a voluntary capacity. I am also a lay preacher in the Methodist church so a Degree in Theology will be of great benefit to me in that respect.”

The Guinness Partnership makes awards every year to residents who want to develop their skills or take up training or further education to help them find work. This year around £40,000 was awarded to 25 residents to help fund training and education towards a range of careers such as driving instructors, trainee doctors or counsellors.

Robert Stronge, a Director at The Guinness Partnership, who presented Denis with his award said: “We are delighted to be able to help people like Denis who have shown a real commitment to helping themselves and contributing to local community life.”