In 2003 while in an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) class in Grangetown, Cardiff, an adult student asked how they could meet British people to practise English.
Gill Saunders their teacher had the idea for a FAN (Friends and Neighbours) Group where people learning English could meet with English speakers, for one hour a week to speak together in a spirit of friendship. Gill felt that having a simple structure for the meeting would mean that anyone attending would be happy taking part, whether English learner or native speaker.
The first was a Women’s FAN Group but a few months later a young Chinese man came and asked if he could join. So a mixed FAN Group started, on a different day in the same venue. There had been no thoughts of spreading FAN Groups, but the numbers were growing and good ideas spread! A local Adult Education Centre asked if they could start a FAN Group as some adult students had said they found attending FAN very helpful. We soon realised that everyone who came could benefit from FAN Group Meetings – local people or those new to Cardiff, from around the UK or from across the world, old and young, those who might feel lonely, as well as those practicing their English.
Since then we have had people from over 100 countries and all the great faiths, also people who are humanists and atheists, and of all ages. We respect each person and accept they are entitled to their views. FAN attendees know how much friendliness and kindness they have received from others in FAN Meetings.
FAN Groups have developed into an amazing network of people in Cardiff and South Wales connected across the world. It is wonderful to hear people say how much they have felt welcome in the city because of FAN Meetings. No-one has to attend – people come when they want or when they can. Some love attending regularly, others just come occasionally, or when they can.
FAN Groups are a new concept for society and are like a lot of linked villages. They can be useful as a community network and are emotionally supportive. People help each other when they see need and get to know each other through the FAN Meetings. In 2010, the Welsh Government recognised FAN with an award for ‘Promoting Tolerance. The UK government has also recognised how much FAN is doing to help build a friendly and caring society presenting FAN’s founder with an MBE in 2014 for having the wonderful idea and ensuring that FAN has continued to grow. Take a look at our gallery of photos of FAN from the early days.
In 2017 FAN brought its community together in celebration of 14 years of breaking down barriers and growing friendship. Take a look at the pictures of the event at the Temple of Peace.