Welcome to our first ever ‘In the Spotlight’ feature. Each month we will shine a light on some of the amazing work carried out by our team of volunteers and staff, giving you a chance to meet some of the team and get a feel for the wide range of activities hosted at the Welcoming.

Meet Nick Hay our very own volunteer ‘Friendship Group Facilitator’ (and in-house Monday afternoon pianist!) Nick says:

“Friendship Group is one of my favourite activities. It came into being following my own experience as a volunteer in the Conversation Cafe which I found too noisy and I couldn’t have a decent conversation with anyone. I thought The Welcoming needed a small group in a peaceful environment where they would each have space and time to talk and listen to each other and where they could form friendships which would help them to settle in Edinburgh. And so the group came into existence for one and a half hours one Monday afternoon around two years ago and has continued ever since. The most recent change has been that staff members Caitlin, Victoria, Elaine and Chiara share the role with me on a rotating basis. The facilitator’s role is to sit back and enjoy it or help it work as intended if that is needed. We are not there as teachers, so this is not a class; it is a group of which we too are a part.

Each week we have up to six people attending, seven including the staff member. We start off with a few understandings between us such as that one person will speak at a time and others will not interrupt, we will share the speaking time equally and we will say immediately if we do not understand something that is being said and then give time and space to the person speaking to have another go.

Many of the people who come have been looking for work. A common problem that they mention is feeling a bit lacking in confidence to be able to attend an interview and get offered a job. So some of the group activity is about helping people to gain that confidence and this usually happens quite naturally when people have the necessary time and space to develop it for themselves. Several of our members have successfully moved on to a job and then of course they leave the group and someone else can join.

The group meetings are however about much more than just practising English and becoming more confident. They are also about sharing experiences in a foreign city and finding out useful things from each other. Quite often people share aspects of their lives that are bringing joy and happiness.  Other times they speak about their difficult experiences and maybe find it helpful to simply be listened to and accepted without judgement.

I myself am a volunteer with the Welcoming. I joined because I was thoroughly irritated by Government attitudes towards immigration and wanted to demonstrate that there are many of us living in Scotland who do not see the world like that and who want to welcome people to live here, just as I myself was welcomed from England seven years ago. I enjoy listening to what people have to say about their lives and experiences and have an abiding respect for some of the stories which people tell.”

Friendship Group runs every as part of our befriending programme ‘Welcoming Friendship’ funded by the Big Lottery Scotland.