Over the past 15 years, a Baha’i-inspired program for English learners in Vancouver has brought together thousands of people to practice language skills in the context of conversations on topics of social importance.
Now, the deep bonds of friendship that have been developed are proving to be a source of vitality and resilience during this challenging time.
“Strong friendships and a spirit of collective endeavor have been consciously nurtured in the English Corner program,” says Simon Grandy, director of Colibri Learning Foundation. “Past and present participants are finding they can draw on each other, not just to get through these rough times but to keep a conversation going about how they can apply profound ideas from the Baha’i teachings in service to society.”
When English Corner groups come together, participants build more than just language skills. At each meeting, they explore themes such as friendship, unity, and the responsibility of communities to care for all. They reflect on how each topic affects them as individuals, how it affects society, and what they can do to put into action the ideas discussed.
With Vancouver under lockdown measures, study sessions have been moved online.
“I think it is very important to keep in touch between us as a community in these stressful days,” says Aislinn, one of the participants. “I feel more at ease and optimistic because I am still in touch and learning with others.”
Recently, a facilitator of the program received an unexpected phone call from someone who had participated 10 years ago but had since returned to Italy. While confined to his home because of public health measures in that country, this person recalled the warmth of interactions he had shared with his group, “It’s very lonely here and I remembered the meaningful conversations we used to have and wanted to reach out.”
“Sometimes we don’t realize how significant a heart-to-heart conversation can be,” says Simon.
Another participant in the program explains, “During the crisis, English Corner has been really helpful. … We could feel empathy for one another because we could know that everyone feels worried about this situation. Our world is big yet we are all close to each other in friendship.”