Language Labs: this is what happens in Libreria on Mondays

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You might have noticed that our bookshop Libreria is closed on Mondays.

Originally, the shop was closed to give the Libreria team a break after the busy weekend. But we thought it a waste for such a unique and special place to be kept shut for a whole day every week, so we decided to start opening it up as a community space each Monday. Each week we host Language Labs workshops and classes for the local migrant community.

Libreria is situated on Hanbury Street, just off the multicultural hub of Brick Lane, and we’re passionate about getting involved in the local community. We want to support organisations already doing good work in the area and engage our Second Home members in the local community.

Once we realised we could use Libreria on Mondays for community events, we started a conversation with some of the groups doing great work around us:

Help Refugees is one of the biggest grassroots charities in Europe, funding and supporting over eighty charities across ten countries, helping to relieve the global refugee crisis. The organisation is run by a warm team of heroes based in Second Home and have collaborated with Second Home on multiple occasions previously to produce many wonderfully thought-provoking events. Help Refugees introduced us to a number of local organisations working on community cohesion in London.

One of those was ELATT, a fantastic organisation that provides free courses and English classes around London. We teamed up with them and now they now run an English class every Monday morning from Libreria as part of their Tower Hamlet Community Cohesion Project, which seeks to engage migrant men and women in studying English and supports them to get involved in their communities. This kickstarts Language Labs first thing in the morning with a closed English class led by an ELATT tutor covering grammar topics with the students for two hours. The class consists of students from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.

The students are then able to attend Second Home’s BeBetter meditation together with Second Home members. This is followed by the Language Labs’ lunchtime Conversation Café, where the Second Home community is invited to join the students in Libreria for informal conversations, helping them hone their language skills with (mostly) native English speakers.

We theme the weeks’ dialogues around different topics, such as cooking, routines, traditions and history. The eclectic mix of cultures that make up the group (our international Second Home community as well as the ELATT students) always creates rich, enlightening discourses. The conversation topics so far have been very varied, from Ukraine’s hierarchical systems to how to make the best Bengali curry.

After the Conversation Café, the afternoons comprise of workshops led by members of the Second Home community and other external organisations. These activities are a means to teach the students practical and employability skills. Some we have hosted have covered:

CV writing, cover letter writing and using Linkedin delivered by Druthers Search, a recruitment company based in Second Home who specialise in the employment of minority groups.

Design, delivered by Hevnly and Extraless’ graphic designers. They hosted an introduction to design workshop. Hevnly is a homeware app and Extraless is a menswear retailer; both are based at Second Home.

Creative writing, delivered by Dina Nayeri, the novelist and essayist. The writing and storytelling activities use fiction to share stories from past lives as well as discuss what it means to live in the West. The author has held monthly creative writing workshops with Singa and Counterpoints Arts. Both organisations promote art and community by and about migrants and refugees.

Wallet-making, hosted by TimePeace App and Juta Shoes, using reclaimed leather. TimePeace is an app to connect refugees and locals; to meet and share their skills, passions and interests. Juta Shoes are a London based ethical and sustainable fashion brand.

We have other workshops in the pipeline for coming weeks, including some confidence-building workshops with Routes. Routes are a social enterprise that uses theatre and games to promote language and confidence.

Language Labs was set up to assist some impressive organisations like ELATT, TimePeace App, Singa, Counterpoints Arts and Routes in continuing their incredible work, as well as give Second Home members an opportunity to meet new people and engage in the local community.

We’d love to hear your feedback on what we are doing, so if you have any questions or would like to get involved in any of the activities we have hosted so far please email me at gabriela@secondhome.io.