On Tuesday 30th October, eight learners from RCLC, accompanied by RCLC staff visited Swallowfield Coffee Club in the village of Swallowfield. This wonderful friendship between the volunteers who run the coffee club and RCLC arose when they decided to donate the proceeds of their summer 2018 quarter, £100, to RCLC. RCLC in turn invited the volunteers to visit RCLC to thank them for their very generous gift with tea, Asian sweets and treats. The experience for the volunteers from Swallowfield and the ladies of RCLC to meet new people, share stories, cultures and food was a very moving one and something we knew we must continue.
This October was the second trip out for our English class learners to have the opportunity to practise their English, take a walk around the village and see the local landmarks in Swallowfield and experience English rural life in a village. Our wonderful hosts have made such good friends with the women at RCLC, exchanging numbers, taking selfies that we are already planning our next visit in the new year. The ladies from RCLC commented;
“We are so excited to be going, I have never been to a village before”
“I really loved meeting the English ladies, they were so kind and I got to practise my English too”
Comments from Swallowfield;
“Your work with these women is so important. It is so wonderful for us to be able to meet these ladies and share stories. We have so much in common! These interactions help to challenge the stereotypes that people have and brings communities closer together.”
The importance of this type of inter-cultural exchange was highlighted recently in our Research report carried out by Reading University and funded by Comic Relief, ‘The needs of ethnic minority women in Reading and how well these needs are met by the Reading Community Learning Centre’ in that;
English language and developing social ties (esp. cross-cultural social ties) were both found to be important needs of ethnic minority women. Women who had these were a lot better off in other ways also (happier, more confident, better integrated, less likely to report problems).
- English language and social ties were found to be mutually reinforcing doing both together adds value.
- Many women lacked alternative opportunities to develop their language skills and cross-cultural connections. Similar services exist, but not quite in the same form, and this alters their accessibility.
The mutual benefits for the host the ladies in Swallowfield and RCLC are huge. This cultural orientation together with our newly formed Conversations with Women Group (which takes place at the Quakers Meting House in Reading on the last Monday of each month during term time) is a place for women to meet other women from Reading who have English as their first language and practise their conversational skills in a friendly environment over delicious food.