Bethany Christian Trust is a national charity whose mission is to relieve the suffering and meet the long term needs of homeless and vulnerable people in Scotland.
“So, am I still an extrovert, or has the pandemic turned me into an introvert?”
This was probably the main, if not only, question that posed itself to me towards the end of 2021 as I introspectively pondered the effects of lockdown. At the beginning of the pandemic, the shifting, isolated, fundraising team at Bethany Christian Trust (Bethany) decided to partake in DISC profiling, with the aim of understanding one another in the absence of ‘togetherness’. My results came back as ‘high I’, which is indicative of a highly extrovert personality.
The results of my colleague’s tests helped me to better understand and even feel closer to them. However when it came to working alongside them once more, I realised that I had grown fond of the silence that my home workspace offered. The ‘post-pandemic’ return to office working was no longer an attractive concept. But that was it, other than my once-a-day cycle, the only real journey that the pandemic set me on was one from extrovert to introvert. A person with a preference for their own company; for silence.
I know that I was fortunate to have a choice in that matter. In my position as a fundraiser for Bethany, I have the privilege of learning about the journeys embarked upon by the men, women, and children that Bethany support. People who were isolated, who could not find their voice, and who felt unable to make choices.
As part of Bethany’s Homelessness Prevention work in Moredun (Edinburgh), an ESOL community group called Everyday English runs weekly. Here, women with English as a foreign language can come together to learn and earn a Conversational English certificate whilst socialising together. Moreover, the women that attend Everyday English find their voice.
Before being forced inside by the pandemic, a woman from Eastern Europe was referred to Bethany by her social worker. She suffered with poor mental health and was completely isolated. After attending the group, where attendees cooked, sang, and laughed together, she began to trust the others, and eventually gain confidence in herself. In time, she was able to communicate in English and confided in Bethany staff:
‘I don’t know the last time I heard my own voice.’
Many of the women who find their way to Everyday English from countries like Somalia, Latvia, China, and Egypt, arrive at the group without support, confidence, or a voice. Before the pandemic, Everyday English helped regular attendees find their voice. Thankfully COVID-19 did not alter this. Instead of closing its doors, the group moved online. In doing so, the group became available to ESOL women from other parts of the city who had previously experienced barriers like transportation and time constraints.
This is where we met Aadya…
Last summer, Aadya began her journey with Everyday English after experiencing a prolonged period of isolation.
Shortly after Aadya moved from Bangladesh to the Calders (Sighthill) with her two daughters and son (all primary school age), Scotland went into lockdown. This new way of life became challenging for her family to connect with UK community. Even when restrictions were lifted and her children could being to integrate into school life, Aadya’s limited English left her feeling extremely isolated.
During the summer holidays, Aadya connected to Bethany’s summer activities in Sighthill, and with that initial connection, the Bethany staff were able to inform Aadya of the Everyday English group and encouraged her to participate.
Now, Aadya loves the group, and her English is really improving! She has made new friends and connected with other students from Bangladesh. Additionally, her daughters have been able to attend Bethany’s ESOL Homework Club where they receive support on a range of subjects. More than anything, Aadya told Bethany staff that she is thankful for the opportunity to meet new people and to feel more connected to her local community after months of isolation.
Aadya’s story reminds me that the success of the ‘Everyday English’ class goes far beyond the physical or virtual ESOL classroom. Indeed, it extends an invitation for women to find community. It is a place where women are provided with options, and a place where women can find their voice.
Read here for more information about the Bethany Christian Trust and their work: