Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Friendship Bracelets at the Friendship Group

May 11th, 2010 · No Comments

Ok, so not getting a CRB check was slightly problematic, until Dee, the head of Interface Learning pointed out something rather obvious. It went a little like this.

Dee: Wait, your an international student!

Me: Yes.

Dee: Well than you are an international woman and can come to the International Friendship Group anyways.

Me: Ohhhh…

So, we managed to sidestep that little inconvenience, which just meant that I won’t be able to go into the crèche, which is the children’s playroom. Like that’s a problem for me. It’s really more of a gift, actually. The group gets together once a week, and while the mothers have an English class with a certified English teacher, the children are dropped off in the free childcare. The ladies cook a communal lunch, with everyone taking turns to “host” the meal. Since I couldn’t help with the children I was sort of a gopher by bringing the dishes from storage to the kitchen, etc. It was a lot of fun, and while the younger volunteers I had met at the meeting were very friendly, these women were a lot more reserved and shy with me. It was rather obvious though that many of the women knew each other and spent time together outside of their weekly meeting.

There were a couple teenagers who weren’t in class and they most definitely did not need day care, so they spent the morning in the café with myself, the other volunteers, and Dee. I was amazed by one young woman’s embroidery. She was working on a pillow while waiting for her companion, and the thread that Dee had provided was the same as the kind that I used to make friendship bracelets in summer camp ages ago. When I mentioned that, I was greeted with blank looks from both other volunteers, Louise and Faith. So when I took some of the scraps and showed them what I meant I didn’t realize that I would end up being the referee in their race to start and finish their own bracelets. Unfortunately class ended before a winner could be determined. A small sidenote, I once again had to cross the huge scary roundabout to get to the Children’s Centre, but on the way back Faith taught me a shortcut! No more rotary! Now, I just have to figure out the shortcut in reverse.

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All Headlines Lie!

May 11th, 2010 · No Comments

As a Law and Policy major I have devoted a serious chunk of my college education on the study of government, law, and policy management. Because of this I have seen how a piece of legislation can be traced from the Committees in Congress to the President signing a bill into law, a bill that could later drive a case through the ranks of the judicial system where it can be called into question in front of the Supreme Court, but all of that basically can be boiled down to checks and balances. I also see how issues become a sensation to the media and problems blown way out of proportion, or the focus of the issue is shifted. That was really driven home today when I was in volunteer training at the New Routes Organization. They are part of the greater program called Interface Learning. The program is devoted to long-term integration of refugees in the Norwich area.

During the training the leader of the organization shared some newspaper headlines that read, “Refugees swarm the UK like ants,” and “City Flooded with Immigrants,” as well as several others. The second quote was taken from a Norwich paper immediately after Norwich was opened as an immigration dispersal point in 2003. The first headline was written in 1900. I’m not saying that newspapers are wrong because in the end they are just a company out to make a profit, but often when it comes to immigration we see that they use dehumanizing language to make a terrified refugee out to protect herself and her family into a faceless horde. The majority of immigrants come from wealthy families looking for better opportunities and they do not need to “steal” benefits from hardworking citizens. Two immigrants that I met today were highly trained computer specialists from Iraq looking to contribute to society, and another was trained at an American institute in Kenya. She also probably speaks better English than some of my flatmates.  No mumbling!

The UK is home to roughly 0.3% of the world’s refugees since many will flee to no farther than the safest place, an example is that refugees in Africa will often run to other places within the continent because they do not have the money to make it farther than the closest “safe” place. It saddens me that many British, like Americans, cannot see any farther than a newspaper headline to look at some actual statistics. As of last year the biggest refugee population in the UK was from Afghanistan, and the largest population of illegal immigrants? They were from Australia. Overall, I found the five hours of training incredibly interesting and I can’t wait to meet the other volunteers at the monthly meeting!

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Death By Roundabout

May 11th, 2010 · No Comments

The meeting at New Routes that I went to was pretty surprising. The volunteers I met at the training were largely older people who had been involved with New Routes and Interface before. They were a mix of teachers, career volunteers, and several international students. The volunteers that I met at the monthly meeting were largely part of the Mentor program, and most were my age. Among them were many UEA students who served as mentors, and several mentees also came.  What came as a surprise is that Dee was drafting many of the pairs to volunteer together at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, so they could both have a mentor/mentee meeting and do some extracurricular volunteer work. She also introduced the Voices Program to us, which would be conducted by the BBC. The Program wanted members of New Routes to come and tell their stories on camera. It sounded like the program was focusing on the younger set, but that could just have been because everyone at the meeting was in the teenage age group. After business was wrapped up, the group broke up to have a cup of tea (it was pretty rainy and cold) and have a kibbitz, and they weren’t shy about including me or asking me questions. After some tea and biscuits I braved the rain and cold and safely crossed the Rotary of Doom. Which I actually considered a great accomplishment considering the rotary didn’t have any crosswalks…Hopefully I won’t have to cross it in the dark again!

I’m going to combine my frustration with the CRB check with this entry, since I just found out that the UK couldn’t get enough information on me for the check to come through. I’m not sure how I’m going to get the actual volunteering part done now. Uh oh.

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Walthamstow Market: A Tourist Free Attraction

August 22nd, 2009 · 6 Comments

Walthamstow Market

Walthamstow Market

This morning Megan, Mara, and Campbell set off for the Walthamstow Market in the center of Walthamstow Central. Walthamstow Market is the longest consecutive market in the city while by no means the largest. After exiting the train, we were immediately confronted by a large open grass field and a jumbo sized television screen in the center of the square. While this would mostly likely reflect a wealthy upscale neighborhood, the market itself targeted a more middle class to lower class clientele.  The majority of people within the market were locals who knew to carry cloth bags or small carts to carry their purchases. This particular market did not cater to tourists, and many of customers were also regulars at produce stalls and small markets. Most items were priced no higher than 8 pounds. The merchants ranged from Cockney to Afro-Caribbean to Middle Eastern. The customers were mainly older women accompanied by young children or older husbands. The market itself is one wide street with stores along both sides and then a center aisle lined with stalls.

Market Stands

Market Stands

The stalls housed “fruit and veg” stands, leather goods, key cutters, clothing, toys, house wares, and fabric. Several of the stalls carried the exact same goods.  There was a noticeable difference between the beginning of the street and the end of the market. Towards the front, closest to the bus and train stations, the quality of produce was better and the people running the stalls were mostly white British and then as we walked to the end of the market it became more ethnic. As we progressed, we began to notice the store fronts lining the market were not very well maintained. In the market itself there were a few cafes and food stands, including a rotisserie chicken stand, but the real food was found at the International Food Festival held at the forefront of the market.

Megan rides the kiddie rocket

Megan rides the kiddie rocket

The food ranged from Asian to German to Latin American, and after sampling goods from several stalls, we found that all the food offered there was exceptional. There were homemade breads and nice cheeses, as well as authentic sausage and even paella. The festival also had several children’s rides, including carousels, rocket ships, and a moon bounce. Megan found the rocket ships to be particularly exciting. The food festival attracted a number of families and couples, and for the first time since arriving in Walthamstow we discovered tourists among the locals.

If you would like to view more photos of the Walthamstow Market or the International Food Festival, please view our slide show:  http://s644.photobucket.com/albums/uu163/mliberty2011/Walthamstow%20Market%20Place/?albumview=slideshow

Tags: Campbell · Mara · Markets · Megan

St Pauls

August 21st, 2009 · No Comments

We took the tube in London for the first time. After getting our new phones we caught the Central Line from Tottenham Court Station  to St Paul. We wandered around the church and than found the City of London where we walked around the financial and business district before catching the bus back to Tottenham Court Road. We picked the St Paul Cathedral as our monument which was under construction and found that most people in the area were wearing suits and walking very quickly and with purpose. 

The stores in the area were very expensive and the banks were in incredible old building with amazing architecture. The people in the walking in the area were not very friendly but the people that worked in the storefronts were happy to talk. The area was not too busy when we visited since the majority of people in the area were working in the buildings we passed. One thing that was interesting was the number of historical plaques on the buildings. Thomas Beckett was born in one of the buildings in the City of London, and many other buildings had plaques along a similar theme. As we were walking along the street we came across a bus that was headed to Tottenham Court Road so we hopped on and ended our first excursion in the city of London!

Tags: Andrew F · Mara · Uncategorized