Join the Xenia Experiment – for more welcoming, equal and connected communities

Do you want people to be more connected and less divided? Join us on Saturday 11th January for a special event to explore how you can make the change you want to see in your community.

Xenia brings together women from all cultures and backgrounds to connect with each other, share experiences, and practice English through creative workshops.

It began in 2016 as part of Antiuniversity Now at Hackney Museum, as an experiment for English-learning women and English-speaking women to connect and create together. From this one-off event we were asked to come back again and again by participants and it has since grown into a weekly workshop, where we welcome regulars and new faces from over 50 countries.

We want to share Xenia’s model to inform practice and support you to hold your own experiment in your local community – inspired by what we’ve already learned about what can really work.

At this workshop you will:

  • learn about Xenia’s story, vision, and impact,
  • learn about our non-hierarchical model,
  • take part in a Xenia taster session
  • and come away with practical tips on how to hold your own event.

This event is open to anyone who wants to learn from what we’re doing, supporting people who might not otherwise meet to connect through meaningful conversations. You may be interested in holding your own event, incorporating Xenia sessions into your organisation’s existing activities, or even starting up a local Xenia – everyone is welcome!

This event is open to all genders. If you have barriers to attending (e.g. childcare or cost of travel) please get in touch with us.

Meet Sultan, a Xenia regular!

L – R: Turkan and Sultan at one of our Summer celebrations.

How long have you been coming to Xenia?
I have been coming to the Xenia since February 2017.

What was it like the first time you came to Xenia- who did you meet, what did you see?
I first came with Turkan after our college teacher had recommended Xenia. We thought it was a good opportunity to improve our English and we decided to go.

We were both excited and a little nervous when we first came. I was so excited about who would welcome us. I felt my English wasn’t good enough so I was anxious to communicate with people but three young ladies greeted him with heart – Ioanna, Anna and Theo. Their sincere and welcoming attitudes led me to get rid of any uneasiness.

Also there were many women like me who want to improve their English and wanted to spend time doing a nice activity. A short time later, this place made me feel at home. My English has developed seriously, I can now talk easily to people and I have made many friends.

How would you tell a friend about Xenia?
I recommend Xenia to all my friends and all the women around me for all the good things it’s given to me. Xenia has a family atmosphere where helpful, loving and friendly people come together. I also think it is a great opportunity to improve your English.

I would like to thank Ioanna, Anna, Makena, Theo, Emma and all the people who contributed to this project.

A Xenia Case Study – how we’ve helped one woman

We spoke to one woman who has been attending Xenia regularly since 2017. Read more about her experiences of moving to London and how Xenia has helped her.

Moving to London
I came to London in December 2016 to marry my husband who lives here. When I first came to London, my loneliness was ten out of ten. I missed my family a lot – I live with my husband and his family, and I really had only one friend.

I have a good relationship with my mother-in-law but I cannot speak to her about close things, and I could not speak to my mother and sister back in Sri Lanka because I did not want to worry them.

Work opportunities
I am a nursery teacher, and I want to work in the UK especially as I am on a spouse visa so I do not receive public money. I have to look after my mother and sister back in Sri Lanka and also I want my husband and I to have our own home.

With my qualifications I can get any kind of job but I wear a veil (full face cover) and in sales or customer care they tell me to take off the veil. I am applying for jobs with children so I can take off my veil. Now when I apply for carer jobs, I put two of the women at Xenia as references because I do not know other people here. 

Learning English
I want to work, so I started ESOL classes. In ESOL they improve our four skills (writing, reading, listening, speaking) but there’s not a lot of a time in classes.

In this country, you have to speak English – even to go to the shops so you can understand what people say. I speak to my community in my language so I do not have normally have an opportunity to speak in English, so if you have the chance to really talk in English you definitely have to take it.

Finding Xenia

Finding Xenia
My ESOL teacher told me about Xenia in March 2017, and now both ESOL and Xenia are very important in my life.

Xenia has helped me lots with my English. The main thing at Xenia is the opportunity to speak and listen in English as we have time to have real conversation. Because the women at Xenia all speak different languages, we have to speak English so it makes us practice.

I am used to people laughing when I make a mistake, but the women at Xenia are so kind and helpful, they correct me and I feel more confident. They are helping me to correct the words, and they don’t hurt me doing this – they are encouraging me, and these small small things are very touching.

How I feel about Xenia
I always tell my friends and classmates about Xenia because like me English is their second language.I share all the details about  Xenia with my classmates e.g. when and where, what we do there to improve improve our English.

Through conversations and activities we learn about different cultures, sometimes we go different places to do our conversations (park , garden) and we even do cooking, art and craft work in some workshops.

Most of my friends live in out of London so when I tell them about Xenia they felt that they don’t have opportunities like Xenia in their area. When I came to England I felt lonely and isolated, after I started to go to Xenia it changed and I became a strong person. We have Xenia from 10am – 1pm, in those 3 hours I feel so happy and relaxed. I feel we all are a big family, especially the volunteers who are so helpful, and now they all became my close friends. 

New Xenia Trustee opportunity: Treasurer

After recruiting our founding Trustees in Spring 2019, we are now looking to appoint a financially minded Trustee to join the Xenia team and help this exciting organisation as it takes its next steps.

At Xenia, we’ve always had big ambitions for what we want to achieve for social integration and English language learning. Recently, we’ve taken some huge steps that will help us to build on and develop what we currently do, while exploring ways we can share this with those outside our local area in Hackney. All of this feeds into some very exciting projects for the new year, and we need you as a Trustee to help us ensure sustainability as we go forward!

We are looking for someone with relevant financial and/or accounting skills. Experience in the charity sector or in being a trustee is not required, but a keen interest in Xenia and our work is essential.

We particularly encourage applicants from Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) and migrant backgrounds and from people who have experience learning English (either themselves or through close friends/family). If you are interested, please read the Trustee role description and email with your application. 

Join Xenia as a child care volunteer

Join Xenia’s organising team and help collectively run the day-to-day of this grassroots organisation!

We are looking for someone to join our organising team, with a specific responsibility for childcare.

Part of our aim at Xenia is to make English language learning as accessible as possible for women – and as part of this we offer childcare during the three hour workshops on Saturday mornings. The role is up to you to shape, but will likely include:

  • Looking after children during some Saturday sessions
  • Appointing and supporting other childcare volunteers to help on the weeks you can’t attend.
  • To have an overview of the childcare rota
  • To think of some games/ toy/activity suggestions and put them into action.

If you are interested please take look at the Child care volunteer role description for more details.

If you would like to apply please email to express your interest.