On Friday I was in Leicester to visit the Shama Women’s Centre, one of the delivery partners on our Talking Together English Language project and celebrate with the participants their successful completion of the course.
Although a few days before the parade everywhere in the town was blue or had flags or pictures of footballers flying! It’s incredible how something as simple as football can unite a city as diverse as Leicester. It’s diversity, of course, and the desire to integrate that makes our English Language project so popular and such a success.
As Chief Executive I don’t get out to our projects as often as I’d like but when I’m invited to attend something like this I always say yes and I’m always blown away by how incredible they are and the phenomenal difference something we take for granted can make to an individual’s life. Our volunteer-led English language courses have been funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government to help support predominantly Muslim women to learn basic, functional, pre-ESOL English – to enable them to talk to their child’s school, make a doctor’s appointment or go shopping on their own. Not speaking the language of the country in which you live is hugely isolating and can leave these women living and communicating within a tiny community, almost all family. Learning just enough English to do the basics has truly empowered them and fundamentally changed their lives, enabling them to take a train into the city for the first time, or help a child with their homework.
It’s a huge privilege to meet them and see their faces light up as you present the certificates – excited and grateful that the CEO from London has come to their class to say well done! The truth is it was me that was excited and grateful to be there and have my photograph taken with them, to see the impact that our classes have had, to meet one of our incredible volunteers who had worked with them to give them the confidence to speak English and to enable them to change their lives through a simple, and crucially, free 12 week course. Of course as always when I go to one of our grassroots partners the welcome and hospitality was fantastic and I certainly never leave hungry!
We very much hope we will be in a position to run more of these courses over the coming months and change more lives, so do keep an eye on our website for volunteer opportunities.