The FAN Charity – Friends and Neighbours

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The FAN Charity is an organisation which supports FAN groups, where FAN stands for Friends and Neighbours. The mission statement of the charity is “to promote religious and racial harmony by developing and strengthening good relations between individuals of all beliefs, races and cultures, thus fostering a spirit of kinship, mutual understanding and respect amongst the peoples of the world.” The charity aims to do this by holding weekly FAN groups in South Wales and further afield, both online and in-person. At FAN groups, participants can connect with their local community and the wider world in a friendly and relaxed way. Attendees can talk about their daily lives, experiences, and ideas with others.

The first FAN group was formed in 2003. The idea was proposed by Gill Saunders, a teacher of an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) class in Grangetown, Cardiff. This was in response to an adult student of the class asking how they could meet British people to practice English. The first FAN group was a Women’s FAN group, but with increasing interest and numbers, mixed FAN groups began to take place. Since then, the FAN charity has had people from over 100 countries attend FAN groups. The FAN charity has also managed to develop into an amazing network of people across Cardiff and South Wales who are connected across the world. To achieve its growth, the FAN charity has been supported by funders and individual donors. It has also been successful in achieving an award from the Welsh Government in 2010 for ‘Promoting Tolerance’.

The mission of the FAN Charity is to support and promote the development of sustainable FAN Groups. Part of this process involves recruiting and training volunteer facilitators to run FAN group meetings. The role of volunteer FAN group facilitators is to bring the benefits of being part of FAN to as many people as possible in the community. Through holding FAN group meetings, the FAN charity provides people with opportunities to meet new people in a safe and non-judgemental environment. This can help to reduce feelings of loneliness amongst participants and supports non-native speakers in improving their English.

Whilst FAN groups are inclusive for all, the FAN charity hopes to encourage more young people to attend. Young people who may especially benefit from coming to a FAN meeting are international students, who may be looking for opportunities to practice their English with others, or who are feeling unfamiliar with the community. Asylum seekers and refugees would also especially benefit from coming to a FAN group. This is because FAN Groups are safe, non-judgemental spaces where people from a diverse range of backgrounds can come together to talk and listen in kindness. However, any university student or young person that is feeling lonely, or just wants an opportunity to feel part of a community, should consider attending a FAN group. They can benefit from meeting new people that they may not usually come across in their day-to-day life, taking a break from their studies to relax and talk with others, and learning about different topics of interest. Young people could also ask if there are any opportunities for them to volunteer with the FAN charity and get involved further.

Ideally, the FAN charity would like to increase awareness amongst young people of their FAN groups. It is hoped that a social media campaign may be able to achieve this, and encourage positive word-of-mouth amongst young people who may attend a FAN group and recommend it to others.

Those who are interested in attending a FAN meeting and would like to find out more should contact Sarah Duncan-Jones, FAN Manager. Her email is: sarah.duncan-jones@thefancharity.org

If young people would like to hear more about attending FAN meetings from a young person’s point of view, then they can contact Ebony Clent who is currently working as a social media volunteer for FAN. Her email is: ebony.clent@thefancharity.org

You can also find out more information on the FAN Charity’s website: https://www.thefancharity.org/

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