The UK has an ever-growing migrant population. The number of people seeking asylum here increased by 63% between 2011 and 2015 and 2015 alone the UK received over 30,000 asylum applications from countries where English is not an official language.
However, proficiency in English is a vital tool for navigating everyday life in the UK. Without a secure knowledge of English even simple everyday tasks can become a struggle, and research has shown that migrant women often face greater barriers to accessing English classes than migrant men.
A report recently published by the Wonder Foundation recommends providing single-sex provision as well as ’empowering community spaces where women feel welcome and safe’ as steps to breaking down some of these barriers and that ‘befriending of migrant English learners by nationals and well established migrants should also be encouraged and funded at a local and national level’.
At, Xenia we are providing a much-needed safe space for women of all backgrounds to support and befriend each other.
Since Xenia was founded in 2016, we’ve welcomed over 350 women from over 56 countries to our Hackney based workshops. Our workshops not only give women who attend regularly the confidence to speak English more in their everyday life, they also tackle isolation by providing an opportunity to socialise and make new friends.
The impact of Xenia has been recognised in various pieces of research and forums, which are listed below:
Xenia was one of eight case studies of best practice in the British Academy’s 2017 report on ‘Local actions to promote social integration’, which called on Xenia to share its model. The report identifies the 'transferable learning' that Xenia holds, having 'become custodians of a tremendous amount of knowledge, resources and insight into what it takes to facilitate a successful intercultural inter‐generation group for migrant women that promotes language learning and two‐way social integration.'
We’ve also been featured in The Council of Europe’s database of good practice, as well as in The Cares Family/Nesta pamphlet ‘Finding connection in a Disconnected Age’. We are regularly asked to write about what makes the Xenia model work – such as recently for Collaborate CIC, for their series on A Collaborative Society.
“What Xenia aims to do is extremely important. Women can be particularly disadvantaged for a range of reasons, including lack of access to childcare for ESOL classes. This can lead them to be socially isolated, unable to integrate effectively and rebuild their lives.
Xenia’s ability to bring women together in a safe, informal and creative space to develop their English skills and to meet other members of their community, including access to childcare, is hugely welcome.”
Mariam Kemple Hardy, Head of Campaigns at Refugee Action (#LetRefugeesLearn)
“Xenia’s success has been down to a strong belief in making language learning accessible for all women, many whom are often excluded from mainstream ESOL classes, so they can build their confidence and take part in their local community.
The learning method used by Xenia not only helps women learn English but also helps everyone involved to break down barriers by making friends and understanding of different cultures, practices and norms.
To continue offering this vital service and meet the growing demand it is vital that London funders resource Xenia adequately.”
Sofia Roupakia, London Projects Manager at Migrants’ Rights Network
“On behalf of HOPE not hate I have the real honour to work with Xenia. You don’t get much more HOPEful than the community engagement that takes place as part of the outcome of Xenia’s work with women who are helped with their English skills and the women that help them.
The community that has this cohesive cooperation taking place is fortunate to be able to benefit from the growth that is enabled by this project. We need more Xenia;
Dawn Livingston, London Community Organiser for HOPE Not Hate