What a difference a week makes. In direct contrast to the torrential rain of last Wednesday, today there was only sun. Jo threw cloths over the tables under the wisteria and all was instantly transformed into the Guildford riviera.
We were chuffed to have special guests with us all day too. Tom and Grace from Marlborough College School of English and Culture came down to help prepare them to apply for the Al Rashid scholarship - a life-changing opportunity for a young person of refugee or asylum background to take part in one of two summer residential programmes based at Marlborough College...
They started with a workshop on how to promote yourself; how to recognise your skills and talents and then to articulate them in a way that others will be drawn to. This is hard enough for anyone to do, but even harder in another language and another culture. One of the lads shifted in discomfort as I pointed out all his skills that could on go on the application, and said “But in my country you can’t do this. You can’t SAY you're good at things, people will despise you”. Which does have some reflection in modern British culture too, and yet we all know that too much modesty is not ideal on a job application. The issue is that when your background is not UK based and your profile is different from those of your UK based peers, an application form which expects academic achievements and lauds extra-curricular experience of a particular kind can feel like an insurmountable challenge. You can have skills and experience galore, but they can sometimes be difficult to explain and end up looking out of place. And looking to the future is not always an easy thing either, especially when hope for that very future is not yet permitted by the Home Office. All in all, it takes awareness, some practice, and a happy dose of self-belief to overcome this hurdle, and Tom and Grace managed to extract the whole lot. They then put each and everybody through an interview process. Vicki and I were chuffed to bits to see how confidently they took this on, and equally delighted it’s not us having to make the selection. Sorry, T and G, and good luck with that… ;-)
We had special guests in the cafe too. Local business people, friends from all over the place, people coming to introduce themselves having heard about us through other sources… it just felt busy. And today’s star was definitely M, who for the first time was out waiting the tables, and did it brilliantly, despite being at the beginning of the whole English language journey.
Next week should have been the last week of the pilot but we have managed to extend by one week to coincide with half term. After that we will have to take a short break while we work out the next steps. So please come down next Wednesday or the 29 May and see for yourself.
Images © Big Leaf Foundation