• Libby

Transcript - Friendship & Support with Ilda, Founder of Welcome to the UK, Episode 09 / Series 01


Libby: You are listening to Constellations, the podcast connecting charities, communities and causes in the two Essex unitaries of Thurrock and Southend. In today’s episode, we are talking to Ilda, the founder of Welcome to the UK, based in Southend. Welcome to the UK began as a friendship group for people starting a new life in the UK, and over time evolved into a registered charity, thanks to the hard work and dedication of Ilda and the amazing team of people who have supported her along the way.

This episode was recorded at Havens Community Hub in Westcliff - as you will be able to tell from the recording, it was extremely busy whilst we were visiting. So we apologise for the bumps and extra noises throughout the episode! Thanks for tuning in, and we hope you enjoy this episode as much as we enjoyed recording it!


Sharen: Welcome, Ilda. Thank you for joining us.

Ilda: Good morning. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Sharen: So thank you. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and how Welcome to the UK came about?

Ilda: Yeah, we started Welcome to the UK in 2014. So I came to Southend in 2012 and we started as a friendship group in 2014 and now we are registered charity and we are very active in Southend. So when I came here, I couldn't speak English. I find it very difficult. I have been waiting for Italian language in Albania, so I used to work for a big Italian company. I used to be an Italian teacher, so nothing linked me with English so and it was difficult, but I didn't have any other choice because to integrate myself to help my families, I needed to learn English. And this is what I started to. And when I when my English went better and better than I had this idea to start Welcome to the UK as a friendship group because at that time I couldn't find any charity, organisation or community group that could help people that have English as a second language. So this is how we started!

Libby: So inspiring you thought, I need this thing and then you created it!

Ilda: Thank you.

Sharen: So how has it evolved in? So you started off just as friendship groups. But what? What do you offer now?

Ilda: Yeah, As I said, I think that it's important to understand the needs of the community and what it missed in our town and how we can be active to resolve things. This is the first thing that I had in my head, you know? And yes, we started as a friendship group because, as I said, my English wasn't very good. I had my baby at that time two years old, and I needed to look after him as my husband used to work a lot, so we started as a friendship group and I remember myself just sitting with one of our members and having a chat with her. But I said, rather than being home and maybe being upset and crying and being down so I could do something for myself, for the lady and for maybe in the future I had the dream I could do more for the community And this is what happened, which I'm very happy today. So we started a friendship group. But as I said, we are very active in something and we have our offices in Victoria Shopping Centre and we do ESOL classes. We do many activities there, but the main and the purpose of the charities to give as much information as we can to anyone who have English as a second language, because it's hard to understand the country where you live. So if you would like me to go in details to know more about our activities and more than happy.

Libby: Yes, that would be brilliant,

Ilda: So yes, As I said, we are based in Victory Shopping Centre and our main thing is our is a classes because without speaking English, you can't help a lot, you know, and you can't do a lot for yourself and for your family. I am a mom, I'm a parent, and I think it's so important to support our Children, our family as much as we can. ESOL classes is our priority for us, and we run six classes a week, and they are all running by professional teacher, and once a week we offer creche for all the parents that they don't have a place where to leave their Children.

Libby: Fantastic

Ilda: And this is something that I would like to thank a Better Start because obviously the creche staff is from them and they've been always very, um, very, you know, able to give us their time. And to look after the Children.

After ESOL classes is one of the most important session that we have Once a week is on Friday from one o'clock until two thirty, every Friday, term time only, and we offer our friendship group and the Friendship Group is very important for us because what we do is that we sit together, um, with moms, our dads and welcome to the case open to everyone. And we talk together about our problems, about the things that may be happening itself and give information. For example, during Christmas time, we were trying to give as much as we could information about Christmas activities and parties that other organisations did in Southend so they could go out and join the time with their Children.

The Friendship Group gave us idea what to do and how we can help all our members. So we built a lot of workshops. Workshops are friendly workshops or they're not very official and we talk together about as I said we had about the breast cancer. We had workshops to understand better and a NHS system in the UK, education system in the UK that is so important because when you come from another country, you don't know how the system works, you know, just to give you an example - you go in Albania, you do the blood test and that's it. You know, in the hospital here, you need to go to the GP. So just to understand how things going, it's important for them to know.


Sharen: I did see on your website as well that you do something called Blast Youth Theatre drama club and obviously that's quite different to the other things that you offer and I just want to see how that came about?

Ilda: Some of our families, they do not have the luxury to pay for after school clubs or to pay for different activities and working with Allison, we had this idea to do this drama class with Children between eight years old and 13 years old so they could have once a week a drama session which is more fun than you know. This is where it's with game. They use their imagination and, for Children that they come from a family which they have English as a second language is something nice to do after school, and we managed. And to be honest, Alison managed to get some funding and we gave our time and we gave the offices as well to Blast, regarding drama, which we are continuing working in partnership with them.

Sharen: It's great because I guess the Children as well go to different schools. So it's nice for them to realise that there is a community outside of their school life,

Ilda: Welcome to the UK is looking for more activities for young Children. And yeah, for example, we do an Albanian class on Saturday for Children because it's important for us as a parent, our Children should know more than one language, especially the language where the family come from because they can speak with grandparents, and also we are looking to do a lot of activities with Children. And because I have the opportunity, I would like to invite everyone from different communities. If they would like their Children to learn more about their language. We can do something together, we can find a teacher, we have the office and yeah come and talk to us.

Libby: That would be brilliant. Have you got anything else coming up this year that I like different projects or something that you would really like to do that you haven't been able to do yet?

Ilda: Um so one of our biggest plan is to hopefully expand our activities and to be in another area, not not only in Southend, because we believe and we think, and I think it is important to be whenever is a need, as I said, and we have areas like Basildon or Thurrock or, for example, can be isolated as well that they do not have a charity organisation who they help families that have English as second language. So we are working now. This year is one of the biggest challenges, and then with this year we are doing business plan and the business plan is going to be detailed this year. We're working with Welcome to the UK Trustee Board and I would like to thank you so much the Trustee people because they are always available to work with us anytime. And I think without them we couldn't be here where we are. So this year we are working with them and we are trying to build this business plan - where Welcome to the UK is now and how we would like Welcome to the UK to be in the future. So looks very simple question. But if you think indeed is a lot to do so so by the end of this year,

Libby: Oh yes!

Ilda: Hopefully we'll have a business plan ready and hopefully we're going to be in another area, always with the support of the community of the Welcome to the UK staff of the Welcome to the UK Trustee Board and with the help of the Our Funders. And I would like to thank you now big lottery because obviously we had some funding from them. And thanks to the funding that we got from them, we are able now to work with a business plan for the other future plans that we're going to have.

Sharen: Oh, that sounds brilliant.

Ilda: Thank you


Sharen: I can see that you're out there and putting the words out about Welcome to the UK. But how do you get a lot of the families? How do they find out? How do they find you? Or do you get referrals?

Ilda: Yeah, we do get a lot of referrals now. And as I said, we try to meet any organisation in south and or have a child with them to talk about what we do so they could help their clients as well. So we have a lot of referrals from midwife, health visitor, GP, other organisations like SAVS, Citizens Advice, um, food banks as well um, South and council. Early years. So a lot. We're getting results from them, but also our social media because social media are a must. In nowadays we do get a lot of families from social media from what we do advertising and for us works a lot. Words of mouth we shouldn't forget. This should be a

Libby: Do you often get people who feel anxious about coming into welcome to the U. K's office. Is there anything that you do to sort of help them bridge that gap?

Ilda: But this is why I said The friendship group is important for us. We offer crash for the Children as well on the friendship group, so they don't need to be worried about their Children. They can play, have a nice time. But then the parents can have a chat with us. They're feeling relaxed and they can talk to us for any problems that they feel. You know, I need to say that of course, we do have families that sometimes they are very shy because of the situation. And welcome to the UK. We do not judge, you know, we do not judge anyone for the reason that they are here. The thing is that we know they are here and how we can help them. And of course, we meet a lot of families one to one. So just to give them the opportunity to be comfortable and to not be anxious, and we are there for them to listen, you know, to listen and then to start and say to them “but we can do this for you, what do you think?” You know, it's a difficult job. That is an amazing job when you see the difference that you make on that family on the person, which we are very proud and very passionate about our job. What we're doing Welcome to the UK

Libby: Before we go, if listeners want to get in contact with you, is everything you'd like to say?

Ilda: Yeah. So for everyone who is new to the UK and or even if it's not new but have been here and feeling not happy and feeling not integrated. And I completely understand. As I said, I come from another country. I do not have family around and I completely understand how they would feel, you know, and how difficult is to start a new life in the UK. But Welcome to the UK is open to everyone. As I said in the beginning, we do not judge. We do only talk to each other. You know, there could be other people that will look after them. But our first purpose and the biggest purpose is to help them. We would like only to help them, you know, So they are more than welcome to come.

We have a website www.welcometotheUK.com, which they can go. We can see more about what we do. They are more than welcome to text us or send messages to us on Facebook. We are very active on Facebook so they can go and find our Facebook page. Welcome to the UK and yeah, they can be in contact with us through social media. We are very active on Instagram as well. We have an email office at welcome number two the UK dot com which they can contact us their own email. And yeah, we have a phone number as well if it's okay to give it today. So it's 07581184115 It can be in contact with us, so Yeah, we are here for you.

Libby: Thank you so much for coming to talk to us today.

Illda: It was a pleasure. And thank you so much. Both of you make it easy for me to do this interview. I wish you good luck and all the best thank you


Libby: Thanks for listening to the amazing journey Ilda has been on in founding and developing Welcome to the UK. For more information or links to anything mentioned in this episode, check out our Show Notes on the Constellations website at www.constellations-podcast.org and simply search for Welcome to the UK.

As always, please do share this podcast with your friends, family and colleagues, or anyone else who you think would enjoy listening along too! Take care and tune in again next Tuesday for our next episode. Bye!


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