Friday 27th March
We were back at Rainbow Services in Harlow today talking firstly about community. Sarah and I definied it very well I think; 'A group of people united by a common interest'. We discussed the Harlow/Bishops Stortford community bringing up their similarities, differences and divides. It was commentated there are varied ethinic groups in both communities but while in Bishops Stortford they tend to be new immigrants in Harlow they are 2nd or 3rd generation. Also we were aware of a strong volunteer community but that is likely to be more to do with the way we were integrated. When you are involved with something it becomes more obvious to you, you see it everywhere. We discussed subcultures, especially amoung the young, emos, chavs and geeks etc with most of us fitting into the last, power in the community, which sparked a debate about the power of the council in which Ali argued that they weren't powerful but I and Anne-Maire disagreed citing their funds and planning powers for example. There are apparently grievences in Bishops Stortford with hertfordshire county council due to limited investment and lots of new houses being built in the town, and in Harlow a traditionally Labour town the council has recently changed over to the conservatives. Ali then made a point about there being more cradle to grave services in Bishops Stortford and more life incident services in Harlow, highlighting the differences between the communities. I somewhat disagreed. Harlow certainly has more life incident services, indicating a poorer community but cradle to grave services are usually provided by the government and I would say they are as common in Harlow as Bishops Stortford especially when you take into account the philosophy behind Harlow, a twon with all the needs of the community provided for. We then highlighted some of the differences between the UK and Kazakhstan. Malika brought up the issue that in Kazakhstan there is a very clear boundary to the disabled community. The disabled used to be institutionalised and will now generally only associate with each other. After lunch we had a talk by Rainbow services. Here's some facts about Harlow. The town houses 78,100 people in 10 square miles. 25,673 of them are young people aged 0-24. There are 5 secondary schools. As of 2006 14% of people in the twon were in receipt of some form of benefit. There are problems with illiteracy and disability. However the town does have a large number of support services; voluntary, community, registered charities, support groups, residents associations, 'friends of' groups and larger charities with a Harlow base. Rainbow services runs a few of it's own projects. The young bus, a travelling play bus, Re-use and Recycle collects and distributes unwanted furniture and Quigys Kitchen a non profit community cafe. They also provide infrastructure support to the existing voluntary sector. This is normally done by the council for voluntary service (CVS) but there isn't one in Harlow. The Rainbow Centre offers it's office as a 'community campus' providing an office base and conference area for charities without their own, runs the Harlow Voluntary Sector Forum, which allows voluntary organisations to communicate and consult with each other and third parties as a group, the FAIR project gives funding advice and they run a CRB service. Here's a quote from GX 'Gx will contribute to sustainable community developement through engagement of community stakeholders in the focus, design, implementation and evaluation of each exchange'. To finish the day we had one-to-one interviews with out project supervisors in which we had to set ourselves some aims. Mine are
1) Learn more Russian
2) Improve one-to-one communication skills
3) Gain organisation and events management skills
4) Learn more about the Kazakh perspective on their political system and democracy
5)Learn more about how government and the civil service works in the UK.
Was in such a rush to leave that I forgot my classes case. I'll finish with a talk I had with Olga who used to work with the UN in Kazakhstan and told me that alot of people she worked with had gone to Essex University. Essex has a very good reputation in Kazakhstan, woo for Essex!
Saturday 28th March
Gulnara and I headed into Harlow today and did a spot of shopping as we were both lacking warm clothes. Gulnara bought a hat, some sweets and a pair of footless tights and I got a hoddie and anothe long sleeve black top. Living on our small budget of £15 a week I went against my morals and bought it from Primark, which pretty much goes agianst everything Global Xchange believes in too. In the evening we sat down with Ilma and her daughter and went through the host home agreement sorting out things like cooking, washing, cleaning and curfews.
Sunday 29th March
A first for me this morning, I went to church. It's something that is important to Ilma so I agreed to go with her. The minister made a nice topical reference to to the G20 summit, I got really cinfused about what I should be doing when everyone got up and started taking each others hands saying 'peace be with you' and I politely refused to take communion. It didn't feel right not being religious, although for a brief moment I did feel very sad at being excluded from taht ceremony and community. For lunch Ilma made a slightly spicy tuna dish which I've written the receipe down for. She is a really good cook and I hope to collect a few more of her recipes across the next few months. I've been starting to feel homesick which is a new experience for me. I never felt it whe I was away at Dad's house, on school trips or at uni. I think its because I was always with friends and was able to keep my own routine. It is very difficult to adjust to living with two strangers and adapt to their routines. Six months didn't sound very long when I applied for GX but the reality that it's only been just over one week and there is still so far to go has hit me.