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A celebration of small things

This experience that no one could ever have imagined that the world would go through… it has really made a lot of people appreciate the small things in life, the really small things, you know? Seeing people’s faces again. Going out for a coffee with a friend. Having a hug!

Creative English Volunteer, North London

I have recently started working for FaithAction again after leaving my role as a Creative English Trainer two years ago. The time has, of course, flown by – yet in many ways, despite changes in the team, returning to work on a different project, the fact I’m working from home rather than an office, and of course, the pandemic, it feels as though I’ve slotted right back in. This is partly because I’ve spent much of the last few weeks making contact with the Creative English hubs and volunteers I worked alongside when I was a Trainer, and the genuine warmth and delight at making a connection again that I’ve felt in each of these phone calls and emails has boosted me out of the winter blues far more effectively than even the past few days of balmy late-March sunshine could have.

Most of these phone calls and emails have revolved around reminiscences of moments shared together on Creative English, and what struck me as I contacted more and more people was that none of these moments were particularly earth-shattering by themselves or at the time. I wouldn’t even have remembered a couple of them had I not been reminded that they’d happened. Yet these are the moments that stay with people. Here are some examples:

Yes I remember you. You played with my boy at Castle Point, in one of the holiday sessions.

You bought my son a hot chocolate at the Corner Café that time – he still talks about it you know!

Do you remember the session where my daughter learned to clap? We were clapping for one another after the roleplay one week and she started to copy us and laugh!

I remember sitting with you in that lovely park when we came for training and having such a nice chat at lunch time.

I came to visit your session in the mosque and your learners made me the most beautiful bin-liner dress I think I’ve ever worn!

Reflecting on these moments, I realised that these are largely examples of things that go on around, or at the same time as, the sessions themselves. I was reminded afresh that these moments – which are such vital indicators of, and building blocks towards, belonging and community – are just as important as the solid and quantifiable outcomes that the sessions are also designed to facilitate, such as improved confidence in speaking to the dentist. Creative English is a project that helps its learners develop the resilience to deal with the challenges of everyday life in a new country, and it’s the small moments of connection and kindness that power that resilience.

This past year, both our collective and individual resilience has been tested beyond what many of us imagined we might face when lockdown began last year. Many of us have lost loved ones, dealt with the virus and its after-effects, faced financial hardship and struggled with our mental health. I know for my part, I am also facing a lot of anxiety and fear around coming out of lockdown, and how we will safely transition into a world that lives – if not without COVID-19 – safely alongside it. These reminiscences with learners and volunteers have reminded me that we have so much to look forward to, and that the vaccine is one step towards being able to cherish these small things – buying hot chocolate for a friend’s son, having a nice chat in the park over lunch, dressing up in outrageous bin-liner costumes. They also act as a reminder not to feel pressured to make the shift too quickly, that small steps are okay – perhaps even better – than rushing back into things all at once.

It’s the small things we do for each other that build community, and we mustn’t lose sight of these as we come out of the pandemic. It’s the small things that are remembered years later, and they are what will give us the resilience to adapt to a changed world.

About Charlie Murrell-Edwards

Support Officer, Community Champions

Charlie was previously a Trainer for Creative English, where she trained and supports Hub volunteers across London, the North and the Midlands in their delivery of the Creative English course, as well as running her own group in Redbridge. Before she joined FaithAction, Charlie worked in a number of education and theatre-related roles. She has worked for the Theatre in Education company ACLE, delivering their play-based English courses to children across Italy. Before this, Charlie was a Learning Support Assistant in a PRU for primary-aged children in South Devon. She has also taught English as a Foreign Language, and spent two years working for the London and Manchester-based mentoring charity ReachOut, first as a volunteer mentor on a project in a Tower Hamlets primary school and then as a Project Leader.