Our speaker this week is Glenys Henriette Mayemba. Rotary is a multi cultural organisation and Glenys has a marvellous story to tell about her work in conversation with John Isles.
John: Glenys, welcome and can we start by asking you tell us a little about yourself?
Glenys: I was born in the Kingdom of the Kabaka in Uganda. My maternal family are originally from the Seychelles. This culture was rich and diverse and children were free to experience and integrate with many faiths and races. My Seychellois origin fuelled my desire to mix with people of all races. In the Seychelles I attended Secretarial College, had a young marriage (normal in my culture), and started employment at the Union Lighterage Co. Ltd. I worked with P & O, and Cunard Lines.
During this time I was fortunate to attend the start of the Woman’s International Decade in Nairobi and had many opportunities to meet thinkers from all over the world. This was an exciting and challenging time for the Seychelles and I served on many committees and played my part in the development of our country. From the Seychelles I was asked to come and see my grandmother who was very ill in London. I arrived in London one very cold April day with my 3 year old son.
My son and I settled into our new life. At this time my husband joined us from the Seychelles and our second son was born. I gave up work to look after the baby. During this time I decided to train as a teacher. Unfortunately ill health brought this career to a halt. This led to divorce, many new challenges and a new marriage I was lonely and unfocused consequently I joined West Wilts Multi Faith Forum and came to the realisation that some of the women desperately wanted to learn English.
John: Tell us about WWIF and the work you do and the benefits you feel are achieved:
Learning English empowers the women so that they can be valued members of the community they live in. It makes it possible for them to access all the services, particularly the education system. This breaks a cycle as they are able to support their children at school and build a strong home school partnership. The English class is the first step in a long journey for some it will lead to employment for other further education. Many have taken the next step already two have even a cottage industry, a few in employment, and others volunteering. I sometimes see it as an apprentice model where the things the women do with support today they will be able to do independently on their own in the future, in fact they will then be able to be leaders and to teach others using the same model. The women gain confidence, and the ability to practiceEnglish in a not threatening and safe environment. They build friendships with women from other cultures and faiths. A first for many of them.
John: Is it just women who benefit or do others benefit as well?
Glenys: Many husbands have talked to me about the burden of having to be every support for their wives, now the women have each other and the volunteers for friendship, companionship, support and advice. Often husbands’ questions are channelled through the wife. I strongly believe in community and by building the small family units, they in turn link with other family units and we are all linked and able to achieve a healthier and happier environment. West Wilts Multi Faith group is passionate about providing a space where people of all faiths (or no faith) to meet together in friendship, and gain knowledge, respect and understanding, in and around West Wiltshire. The Woman’s English class certainly meets this and all the other aims.
John: Do you work with other organisations?
Glenys: We work with the Police and in schools provide a forum for people of different backgrounds, cultures and faiths to experience and unite in common shared values found in all faiths and cultures. This brings about an understanding of each other that is core to our communities surviving and thriving. As a community group we further aim to enable people from all backgrounds to meet and discuss issues to remove perceived misunderstanding, inbuilt prejudices and build a friendship and support network.
John: Glenys, How can Rotary help?
West Wilts Multi Faith Forum has many needs, the group is staffed by volunteers who give so freely of their time, without them there would be no group, we would be honoured if you would consider volunteering with us. Anyone who can sit and listen to readers and help with a bit of writing, Speakers from a variety of faiths for school and police work e.g. assemblies and training, Creche workers so the mothers can learn knowing that their children are being safely cared for, committee members, members and funds. As you may have perceived by the above list we need your help to keep this group vibrant and effective.
I think it’s also important to tell you what we can do for you. We will give you the opportunity to meet people from a variety of faiths and cultures. The friendship of women who are so eager to be part of the community they live, the joy of the children’s laughter. An opportunity to learn, discuss and hear about the many issues around the world from many perspective. Should you volunteer on a Wednesday a new outlook to life, companionship, and a deep understanding and appreciation of the silken tie that binds us together as humans.
John: Finally, where can those interested obtain more information?
Glenys: The best place to start is our website http://wwmff.org.uk/
John: Many thanks for joining us and I’m sure if our members can find some time to help, they will.