I had the pleasure of attending a celebration event at one of our delivery partners, Shama Women’s Centre in Leicester, to mark the completion of the Talking Together six-week English language programme, and to acknowledge the achievements of both the learners and volunteers.
The learners arrived at the event, many with home-made food for us all to share! They were invited up one by one to collect not one, but two certificates. Culturally, we are so used to receiving certificates from a young age – for swimming five metres, for competing but not always winning, and as we get older, we accumulate many certificates that we do not always appreciate or treasure.
Many of our learners have not been in education since primary age and some had received no education at all. Therefore, receiving a certificate from our Chief Executive, Helen Walker, and another from Shama Women’s Centre, was a huge achievement for them.
The women were clapping and cheering for each other, and many made sure to document the moment by taking photos. My cheeks hurt by the end through smiling so much! I attend numerous lessons throughout the course, and it is amazing to see the increased confidence levels of the women in such a short amount of time.
It’s hard to put into words what this course provides to the women, but some of the learners, with help from family, tried to express their gratitude by writing small letters of thanks to the volunteers. Here are a few things they said: “I met people from different parts of the world ... I can feel the growing confidence within me.” “I have learnt many things, but I would like to learn more. I enjoyed my time here ... the teachers are amazing.” And: “I enjoyed the class, the teachers were very good and we will be missing you.”
These comments came as no surprise to me, as watching the volunteers interact with each other and the learners it was clear that they had built strong working relationships, and that there is a genuine care and passion in them. I felt a true sense of pride as our volunteers were also presented with their certificates. The volunteers have been an asset to TimeBank, and have exceeded expectations in terms of dedication and professionalism. As a Talking Together Project Co-ordinator, it is incredible to work on a project that equally benefits both the beneficiaries and the volunteers. As many other classes across Birmingham are drawing to an end in the next few weeks, I am looking forwards to attending more celebration events and witnessing even more achievements.