Our Talking Together project empowers communities - and community organisations

We work with community organisations to deliver our Talking Together English teaching project, and here Sule Ibrahim of the Turkish Cypriot Community Association (pictured on the right, with our project co-ordinator Marie) writes about the positive effects that learning the language has on individuals, families and society as a whole.

I remember noticing an email in my inbox from TimeBank introducing the Talking Together initiative in London. My first thoughts were of excitement of the possibility of delivering much demanded and long fought for English classes to our community. Surprisingly the sense of uncertainty of its legitimacy was also present. I caught myself thinking ‘Really? What’s the catch?’

As a community organisation we had tried hard to achieve our goal of running Pre-entry level English classes. We collated a waiting list of those wishing to learn English. We applied for funding after funding. When that failed we searched for volunteer trainers who could help to achieve our mission. Finding volunteers who could commit 10 hours a week for three months however proved even more difficult. Perhaps we were too ambitious! So the sense of doubt felt with the receipt of a promising email claiming to hand over a project to us, I feel was justified.

Fast forward a few months and we have completed our first six week course with 11 learners receiving their certificates. The first class proved so successful that we immediately began another one.

Jointly working with TimeBank to serve our community through the delivery of the classes has been a very rewarding experience for the Turkish Cypriot Community Association. TimeBank and its project coordinators have been very helpful and supportive in ensuring that as a partner we were able to take control of the reins and deliver the project.

329 Many of our learners have been women. Some are working in low paid jobs and hope to develop their English language skills and improve their chances of getting a better job. Some are unemployed or housewives who hope to build links with other members of their community. What is common amongst all our learners is their wish to belong to a community in a very multicultural and diverse city like London.

Although only a six week course, through the Talking Together initiative we have been able to plant the seeds to tackle lack of integration due to limited English language skills and help to empower our learners through their developed confidence in communicating in Basic English. Our learners have surprised themselves with their increased self-confidence. Some said that they have caught the bug for studying more and felt confident to apply to college. Others said that they developed lasting friendships. But most of all for all our learners, learning the language and meeting new people helped them reduce their social exclusion.

Learning the language of the local community has a positive impact on the lives of individuals, families and society as a whole, affecting access to services, education and the ability to participate in the community. As a partner organisation we feel that we have been able to invest in a project that empowers. Ultimately any community organisation’s goal is to empower its members and its community. And it seems although the journey is unfinished part of our mission has been accomplished.