Annual Report April 2019 to March 2020
During this financial year we engaged with 112 learners. Of these, 73 were new learners to Belong with 39 being returning students. The new learners were mostly self-referrers with a small number being referred by external agencies such as the Job Centre Plus and the library. The majority of learners who were returning did so because they were not offered a suitable college place. Learners originated from 27 different countries as diverse as Peru to Pakistan, Brazil to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka to Sudan, from Africa, Asia, South America and Europe. The largest number of learners came from Sudan, Kurdistan (Iraq) and Eritrea – altogether making nearly 40% of participants. Between them our learners spoke 19 different languages, with Arabic speakers being the top 28% and Kurdish Sorani speakers the next highest with around 11%. Our learners were aged 17 years and over.
We were fortunate and grateful to receive funding from the following:
- Communities of Identity – funded to engage 30 learners over one year from the refugee/asylum seeker community.
- Nottingham Equal – funded to engage 30 learners from New and Emerging Communities.
- Castle Cavendish –funded evening sessions for those unable to attend during the day due to work commitments or child care needs. We were also funded to deliver conversation classes for women. In addition we carried the Families Into Work programme into this financial year – supporting women with ESOL and employability training.
- Boots – funded to work with 60 learners over one year to deliver ESOL and integration training.
In addition to the above we also received funding from Small Steps Big Changes. Whilst this was not funding for ESOL, the aim was to support mums with children 0 – 3 years old to grow in confidence in using English and accessing local facilities and groups. We engaged with 8 mums, however due to the Coronavirus pandemic we could not complete this project and we wait until the social distancing measures are less restrictive to complete this project.
Our learners consistently report that they enjoy their lessons at Belong. We have great satisfaction in seeing the gains that our learners make, not only through learning English, but also in the impact that has on their lives.
Ms. B started with Belong as a Pre Entry learner. After completing the Pre Entry course she moved on to and completed Entry 1. She was then offered a place at a small local college. However, for several reasons she found that this course did not suit her and she asked to return to Belong. Ms B went on to pass her ESOL and Life in the UK test so that she can apply for British citizenship.
Ms S was widowed and required by the Job Centre to start ESOL courses. Ms S had no formal education, was illiterate in her first language and as an older learner, she had very little confidence that she could learn. Ms S also had a number of health problems which prevented her attending regularly. If Ms S had been attending a college she would have lost her place due to her attendance. At Belong we were able to keep her place open. Initially Ms S was unable even to write her name. We modelled her name for her to copy, but even this was difficult for her. We engaged a volunteer to support Ms S in class and after a few weeks we were very proud to see the progression that Ms S made, being able to identify letters and copying words that were written. Ms S’s speaking skills and confidence also really improved during the lessons. It was very rewarding to see Ms S chatting with her fellow students during breaks. The level of English was still very basic, but we know at Belong that communication is about more than words. The social aspect of these women’s classes was very important as Ms S had no social network and relied on her husband’s family to support her.
M arrived for family reunion in the UK in 2018. She soon became pregnant and wasn’t able to find a suitable ESOL class. Belong was able to offer her a place on a class, knowing that she had childcare for only one lesson a week. She was then also able to join the mother and baby group where she practised speaking English with new friends and was accompanied to other baby groups. M enjoyed learning singing children’s songs with the group, her favourite song was Baby Shark!
IT Skills Training
We were fortunate to once again receive funding from Good Things Foundation to enable us to continue teaching IT skills. We supported 270 people to develop their digital literacy skills through the Learn My Way course and the Make it Click course. This can range from teaching people who have no previous experience of using a computer at all, needing to learn the basics of using a keyboard, to those wanting to develop skills to improve employability.
Ms S was an asylum seeker who had no formal education in from her home country, and with no English language skills. After attending ESOL classes and growing in confidence, she was able to attend college. When she had developed her English skills she returned to Belong to learn digital skills. Our IT tutor was able to support Ms S in her own language which was more meaningful and meant that she progressed from not being able to type her own name on the keyboard to being able to do a job search herself.
Heritage Annual Report April 2019 to March 2020
The Belong Heritage programme has had a good year. We have gone from research and training to preparing exhibition materials, a booklet, running talks and school sessions and producing a project video A particular highlight was collaborating with St Mary’s Academy in Hyson Green.
Most of the volunteers (29) we have worked with are from African communities now settled in the UK.
Getting our exhibition into venues like St Mary’s in the High Pavement and Newstead Abbey itself mean we are reaching beyond a ‘Black History’ to a wider audience.
Our training has covered heritage, research, interpretation, creative writing, social media, and presentation skills, while our working sessions have looked at historical records, books, videos and our volunteers’ personal knowledge and journeys to investigate the life o f David Livingstone and the stories of the three African followers of Livingstone who visited Nottingham and Newstead Abbey, Abdullah Susi, James Chumah and Jacob Wainwright.
Volunteers have been trained on the use of video diaries, some of which are included in our legacy film and on social media.
W e have visited the David Livingstone Trust and Centre (May 2019), the National Archives of Scotland (May 2019), and The Royal Geographical Society (June 2019) as well as Nottingham Archives and Newstead Abbey on several occasions.
We have worked since with two classes in Years 5 and 6 at St Mary’s Catholic Academy in Hyson Green, a total of over 40 children. They prepared letters and artwork on the stories of the African companions and slavery, which have been included in our exhibition and outputs. Children also came to Newstead on a day out and had three classroom sessions with volunteers.
W e gave a talk to a group at the Vine Centre, Hyson Green, prior to our exhibition there (2 weeks).
Our exhibition has been on both Hyson Green and Central Nottingham, and also for two weekends at Newstead Abbey, in the David Livingstone room. As a permanent exhibit, it will continue to move around, and will be at St Mary’s Catholic Academy and other venues through 2020 and 2021.
T he volunteers shaped the direction of our research and provided insights into an African interpretation of the stories. We also looked at historical narratives of Africa in the Livingstone era as well as modern narratives such as Tram 83, a book by a Congolese author about modern Congo, one of the regions where Livingstone travelled. We have also been able to engage in story telling and in comparing Nottingham then and now, exploring the experiences of our participants and the relevance of the story to them and their experiences.
The research has been comprehensive, and has included review of a number of biographies and accounts of David Livingstone (including the account by Alice Frazer, a Newstead resident who met all the characters), online sources (including films and video available on the BBC and YouTube), archives material, websites, documentaries and regular group sessions with volunteers to discuss findings and seek their interpretation and comment.
R esults have been collated to prepare a booklet, website, posters and display materials which will be used for public events, and further workshops. The main panel and film are designed for continued use after the project ends.
Sadly, the Coronavirus pandemic meant we had to put on hold our end of project celebration event at the Council House ballroom and what would have been a fantastic African-Caribbean fusion buffet, as well as delay the launch of our booklet on the African companions, but this is just delay.