Feb 1, 2018 · 5 min read

By running educational services with us, our volunteers fundraise for charities of their choice. Since OxFizz was founded in 2007, our volunteers have raised nearly £1m in charity donations.

We’re proud of the social impact our volunteers have — so from now until April we’ll be publishing blogs on their charities. We hope you find inspiration in what follows.

Xenia Women

The first of these posts comes from volunteer Miriam Chapman who donated £171 to Xenia Women last year.

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Miriam, how did you first get involved in OxFizz?

I first joined OxFizz as an intern, and then stayed on volunteering afterwards partly because of Sijana’s [our former Volunteering Coordinator’s] pestering! But actually mostly because I really loved studying Human Sciences, and I like meeting students applying to Human Sciences. I also actually just love catching up with people and meeting other graduates at interview days. I took a date once to an OxFizz volunteering day — he wasn’t that impressed.

Tell me about the charity you donate to:

Xenia Women — I first came across them at a Filanthropy* Fundraising event — you hear different charities present their work to think about who to support.

They were speaking about their model of offering English language classes to women in Hackney. I was working at Bromley by Bow Centre at the time, which was offering classes to women in IT and computer skills, but their level of English meant they couldn’t fully benefit from them.

So when I heard about the project in Hackney I went with my friend Makena to their first session to volunteer. It was such a lovely atmosphere — there were 10 English learners and 5 English speakers all in a conversation class together. I did a few sessions with them and got to know everyone really quickly — I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to learn English or seeking local volunteering opportunities.

And why did you choose them to donate to?

Makena stayed involved in the charity and joined their organising committee. I felt bad that I didn’t have the time to commit regularly to Xenia, so it seemed like the obvious solution to volunteer now and then for OxFizz to raise money for them

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Makena, what’s your relationship with Xenia Women?

As Miriam said, we went to their first session together, and I really loved the atmosphere so I stayed volunteering there and joined the committee of volunteers who run it. We’re entirely voluntary — we don’t have any paid staff.

What is the impact of Xenia Women’s work?

The emphasis is on creating an inclusive welcoming space for women from migrant or refugee backgrounds. There’s a real need for English classes but especially ones which focus on speaking skills, and are enjoyable and welcoming. The emphasis is on the fact that any woman learning English can come. We’ve been running for just over a year and were set up due to the realisation that women have lower access to formal classes than men, and many wanted a more informal, more welcoming space.

We’re one of very few organisations to offer women only classes which increases the accessibility for many- for example we provide child care during all our sessions.

Who benefits from the charity’s services?

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We run one session a week for English learners, and have been doing so regularly for a year — the numbers vary, but we tend to have around 10–15 learners each time. The women are from all over the world — including Bangladesh, Turkey, Eritrea, Indonesia, Spain, Portugal, Poland, São Tomé, Afghanistan, Algeria and many more!

What motivates you personally to be involved?

It feels like a very straightforward, practical way of supporting integration and understanding between cultures, welcoming people to London and the UK. There’s a clear need for our services, the women tell us how useful it is, and we’re not overcomplicating things. External evaluations as part of the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission and British Academy research have shown the value in Xenia’s work to support language, learning and confidence as well as reducing social isolation.

What are the barriers to growing your impact?

Time and money. We’re entirely volunteer powered — we don’t pay anyone. Sessions take a long time to prepare and deliver, as well as setting up the partnerships with other groups, getting the word out and arranging trips. Lots of people approach us about expanding but we don’t have the capacity.

At the moment our costs are very low — just travel expenses so the women can come, and some basic materials for the sessions. We want to start applying for small grants so that we can hire someone on a part time basis to help us grow.

Why should OxFizz volunteers consider donating to you?

We’re an extremely small organisation so any donations have a huge impact. We have no overheads at all — no paid staff, rent, etc. which means all income goes straight to increasing our services — putting on more classes, paying more travel expenses so more women can come, investing in better materials.

How else can OxFizz volunteers support you?

Women can of course come along and join in — we welcome people who can speak and who are learning English-sessions run on Saturdays in Hackney. In the next few months we’ll start looking at how to incorporate as a charity or start fundraising in a more formal way, so we’d love to hear from anyone with experience in fundraising or legal experience of incorporating a charity. Thank you!

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If you want to find out more about Xenia Women, you can visit their website here.

If you are interested in fundraising through OxFizz, please contact Lee on lee.robertson@oxfizz.org.

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