My first experience with Educafe community café at Newbury library

On Wednesday 12 July, I spent the day at the Newbury library at its weekly ‘Educafe and Chatty Corner’ as part of a work-experience week with Penny Post.

Whilst there I spoke to Richard, one of the many Educafe volunteers; Subia, a young mother originally from Pakistan who started going to Educafe to find people to talk to after her son was born; and Margaret who oversees the Chatty Corner of Educafe.

After speaking to Margaret I learnt all about the ‘Chatty Corner’ and the team of volunteers that works to help so called ‘chatters’ who don’t speak English as a first language to practise their conversational skills. She explained to me how they put a volunteer on each table and then people can sit down with them in a big group and practice their speaking.

People from all over the world arrive at the Newbury library to practice speaking English but mainly it is asylum seekers who attend. They can also provide one-to-one lessons and courses for people who are a bit weaker with English. Margaret told me that new volunteers are always needed as more people are always joining: so if you are interested you should definitely take a look.

Educafe takes place every Wednesday from 11am to 2pm at the Newbury library. If you want to volunteer you can sign up on the website educafeuk.co.uk  – be quick, though: Educafe takes a break over August so make sure to visit by the end of July or else wait until September. 

Margaret then told me that a lot of the people who go to the chatty corner are asylum seekers who have been set up in nearby hotels and are given little money and amenities. She told me how great it is for them to have a relaxing and social space environment set up by the charity. I then heard all about the trips they organise to various towns and cities such as London, Oxford, Bath and many more for some of the less fortunate members who may not get the chance to otherwise.

It was very interesting to hear from Richard about the range of different people he helps teach and practise speaking and reading in English. He explained to me how so many people are interested in the history/geography of the area and country and the importance of giving them the basic skills they need to help get a job and work in the future.

He also told me a story about a time when he was helping some Syrian refugees who had ended up in Newbury and didn’t have any bearing to where they were. So he had drew them a rough map of the UK to give them an idea of  where they were. I thought it was  also quite interesting when Richard told me how he thinks we also need to be teaching people who were born in the UK about their own history as he doesn’t know if schools are really doing enough.

I also spoke with Subia who was at Educafe with her 15 -month-old son. She was telling me all about how she started going to parents meetings in the library on the floor below when her son was only six weeks old. Once she had heard about Educafe, she began going every week: now she is in charge of  advertisements and marketing of the charity.

Subia raised some really good points on how some mothers, especially when they are young and on their own, may struggle to know what to do. Having the opportunity to speak to people, share experiences and even just to have some peace is really valuable.

She also mentioned that when you’re a new mother in a completely strange country it can be really difficult to balance bringing up your child and learning the culture and language of the country you are in. She said that Educafe really helps with that and is the reason she keeps coming back.

I had a great time at Educafe and I think what they’re doing needs to happen more on a bigger scale and spread across the whole country. It isn’t often that people from all walks of life and different countries get to share such a friendly and relaxing environment together. And if that doesn’t make you want to go than their top-tier cakes and coffee will!

Kaden Womersley- King Alfred’s Wantage Year 10 work experience

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