Meet some of the people who come to FAN groups and find out why they come and what they enjoy about the meetings.
If you come to FAN you may well meet up – and do contact us if you would like to share your FAN story.
I am Hayley, I live in Barry and I've been attending FAN meetings since February 2020. I hope the poem I've wirtten expresses everything I hope it does. I would've written a paragraph, but sometimes when something means a lot how can you? - so I wrote it in the best possible way, through the medium of poetry.
FAN means - friends and neighbours
Where we meet and chat,
We get a little snap shot into others daily lives,
It's a place where we don't judge,
Where we don't criticise,
Where we spread love and kindness,
We just go and offer support for one another,
It's a great place to meet
- You gain confidence
You make new friends,
But most importantly you can gain a new family,
Which I have,
Thanks to FAN,
Especially facilitators - Caroline and Sue, I have a sense of belonging,
I don't feel so alone,
I've gained some good friends,
I'd isolated myself for so long
My name is Huda Khirelsied. I was born in Sudan. I grew up in Port Sudan by the Red Sea. I arrived in Cardiff five years ago. My husband came first and then he applied for the family reunion for us. I like Cardiff because it is a multicultural city and people are friendly and welcoming. It has got nice views and nature.
I was lucky to visit Oasis Cardiff Organisation, where my ESOL teacher told me about the FAN Group. FAN is important and a good opportunity to practice English language for the non-English speaker. It helps me a lot to improve my confidence when I speak to others. Also, to learn about Wales culture and tradition. In addition to that meet new people from around the world. I like FAN Group because it provides a comfortable atmosphere for talking, sharing stories and experience. During every week meeting everyone is encouraged to present their opinions, culture, even food, freely and show respect when being a listener. When my English teacher left she asked me and a friend from the group to take on the FAN Group and I did. Now I facilitate the group each week with help from Steve another volunteer. In 2019 I became a trustee of FAN.
FAN Groups unite people with friendship, love, respect and inspire others. For me FAN Group means a lot. I have got friends from all ages and countries. We visit and support each other.
I am really appreciating that I have joined FAN Group and met any lovely friends here. Believe me if you attend one of the FAN's meeting you will come again.
My name is Katherine Kanyeihamba. I'm originally from Uganda and have lived in Cardiff for 12 years.
I found the first two weeks of lockdown more challenging than I do now.Home schooling my two children was tough as they are easily distracted and do not always enjoy doing school work. The benefit to this is that I have had to be more organised, to create some sort of structure and try as much as possible to stick to it.
I found out about Virtual FAN through email from Sarah and Ian. They've both pointed me to FAN on Facebook as well.
Virtual FAN has given me the opportunity to connect with other people from different backgrounds and experiences. I am not limited by geographical boundaries either as I have met some people who live abroad. I have grown in confidence when talking to an audience of people I might have met for the first time and learnt not to worry too much about how I come across. I think sharing the experience is much more important than the style in which it is presented.
There can be some challenges with technology (for Virtual FAN). For example, a poor signal may affect the sound or picture quality. I know some people might be put off using any form of technology or might not have access to the facilities i.e. smart phones, computer, WiFi or broadband etc.
To anyone thinking of coming to FAN I would say give it a go. It is great for anyone who might be learning English and wants to practice speaking. It can also be another way to make friends, to learn from different cultural backgrounds and experiences. Speaking to group of new people can be nerve wracking for the first time but after a while, it gets easier.
I am Awet Habtom Tekle. I am from Eritrea and now I live in Cardiff, the capital city of Wales.
I am going to talk a little about the lockdown situation. Lockdown is the hardest time for me, and for everybody else as well. How should we busy ourselves for example? I do exercise every day. I go for a run every morning. In the evening after dinner I do some stretching, sit ups, press ups and lots of other different exercise that I can do indoors. I don't want to waste time, because time is gold and never comes back. So, most of the time I get up at 7:00am. At 7:30am I go on a run between 10K and 15k. After a shower I have breakfast. I take a virtual English course from 9:00am to 12:30pm. After lunch, which I cook from fresh ingredients, I might relax by watching a film or using social media. Later, I will cook a healthy dinner.
Sometimes I join Virtual FAN meetings to improve my English and have fun meeting new people and friends. It is really helpful. I really thank FAN for this opportunity – please keep going like this.
Ömer Faruk Karakuş
My name is Ömer Faruk Karakuş. I am from Turkey and am 27 years old. I have been living in Cardiff for about five months.
Let me mention about my days during the lockdown. I spend most of my time in home like everybody else. I usually read a book or text that intrigues me, watch some videos to improve my English or to learn new beneficial things. I have a video chat with my family everyday and with my friends sometimes. I perform prayer five times in a day. I join Virtual FAN meetings once or twice a week. I have been studying a programming language for a while.
I think since I am an introvert and home-loving person, I don’t have difficulty to get used to the lockdown process.
Before the lockdown I was joining several FAN meetings facilitated by Ian Thomson, then by staying in touch with him I was informed about virtual FAN meetings.
I like that the FAN Charity is keeping people connected with each other in these difficult days by virtual meetings. I think that they may be helpful to most of us to not feel alone in these days and decrease the emotional destructive effects of Covid-19. I don’t like the sound problems we sometimes experience in a virtual meeting, but that probably cannot be helped.
Joining FAN meetings allows me to be connected with the new society that I live in, and also other people around the world. Also it helps me to socialise as a reticent person and to improve my English even if it is difficult for me to express myself with foreign language. I find them important in this respect.
I recommend virtual FAN meetings to everyone. I can assure you that you will be listened to with respect . You will get different point of views about a topic with the participants from different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs.
My name is Menekse Guney. I am from Turkey and I live in Cardiff.
The first three weeks of lockdown were very busy for me, I sorted out problems about my house, I did gardening, I cooked, I tried new recipes including making bread! But after one month everything was getting more boring and I thought that I should find new things to do. I started to join a Virtual FAN group, I have started to think about topics, also bought out a lot of new books and started to read. I explored programmes on BBC Radio 4 and followed the podcasts. I got used to my new routine.
I used to take part in a FAN group before I had a baby. Then, I couldn't attend weekly meetings. I have heard of the Virtual FAN groups from Alice who encouraged me to join.
I'm new in the UK and I am a stranger to UK culture. I have made friends from the UK and other countries in FAN. But FAN is beyond making friendship or practising your English, you learn about the UK, about life, different cultures, especially volunteers share all their experiences and all of them are really very unique and precious.
The Virtual FAN Group are a chance to reach all over the world I believe talking with people when drinking coffee face to face is best but in these circumstances the Virtual FAN group is really helpful to keep yourself social.
So I say to people wondering whether to join FAN. Share your experiences with us. Join with us.
Zahra Afshari Amin
I am Zahra from Iran. I have been living in Cardiff for 15 years now.
I think I am managing very well because of the environment around me. I have a new place to live and my daughter with me - the garden, the weather and virtual FAN. It is hard not seeing friends. I am used to not seeing family. It is hard not going out I used to go out every day. But I think there are benefits in this new situation. I have seen that people are more caring and show more respect and are kinder to each other. In my virtual life I have learned a lot about Zoom and Whatsapp, a lot about new technology because I have had to! and have been able to take part in a memorial and a celebration of 100 plus peole from all over the world – I would not have been able to attend them in LA or Paris but I can do it now - the distance does not matter.
As for Virtual FAN - because I go to normal FAN regularly so I know all about it. I like Virtual FAN very much because you see friends from all over the world. I like it all! Coming to Virtual FAN has helped me by providing relief - we can see and talk to each other and do something that is normal as we have done before. It is great to find a way to manage the situation. Otherwise how can we see each other or be together exactly like a real FAN group.
I think we should keep it going in the future as well as normal fan as we can have people from different countries form Spain, Japan with us as well as people from all over the UK. You see if I want to go to FAN outside Cardiff such as in Swansea or Barry I have to travel, but now I can go to FAN anywhere from my home!
If you are thinking of coming to Virtual FAN, I suggest that you come! Even if you don’t want to talk you don’t have to; just sit and listen – and that is good too. It is a relief to see people.
My name is Brian Edwards. I am originally from Swansea and now live in Llanelli, South Wales. I am 76 years old.
During the lockdown I am managing quite well. I exercise a lot, take care of my home and garden. l also read a lot and do crosswords. I miss seeing my family regularly but am in regular contact. One benefit is that I have completed some tasks that needed doing for some time.
I found out about Virtual FAN during the last contact meeting we had. I think it is an excellent experience as we are able to welcome many overseas members to our group. It is so interesting to hear their opinions and experiences. The only thing we miss is personal contact with friends. Virtual FAN has helped me a lot . Having been widowed for four years and not having contact with other people apart from close family I feel I am so much a part of a community. I have made some wonderful friends . I highly recommend people to join us. Some new members are rather nervous in the beginning, but in no time at all they are talking freely and contributing to our meetings with confidence. I hope virtual FAN will continue after the lockdown as well as contact meetings as we can keep in touch with distant friends.
My name is Sally and live in Cardiff. I work for FAN but when I join FAN meetings whether they are virtual or face to face, I come just as Sally.
Lockdown does bring many challenges. I am trying to help my children with home learning and keeping my family as happy and safe as possible. I think I am doing fine with that on the whole. There are some benefits. Life seems to be going at a very different pace and priorities over what is important in life has changed.
My biggest challenge is trying to find time to myself and remembering to take care of my own needs. Virtual FAN does help with that as it is a way to connect with the outside world and socialise for an hour. I have particularly enjoyed connecting with FAN friends who previously lived in Cardiff and returned to their home countries, who now have the opportunity to meet with us again.
Virtual FAN has made it easier for me to access FAN meetings. I am happy that there are plans to continue with them after lockdown is lifted.
I would recommend virtual FAN to anyone who would like to connect with friendly people and be a little less isolated.
Cllr Philip Warlow
Hello, my name is Philip Warlow and I am a Councillor for Llanelli Town Council.
During Lockdown I am managing fine; I live in the centre of the town so access to provisions and medication is readily available. I am recovering from open heart surgery and whereas prior to the surgery walking was extremely difficult due to being breathless after 100 metres, now I do not have that problem but getting out no more than once a day curtails that activity somewhat. Having been home recovering for the past 9 months I have organised my time so there is always something to keep me interested. The most difficult challenge is not being able to jump in the car and go for a drive and listen to music.
As for Virtual FAN, although it does not trump the face to face FAN meetings it is an excellent option that really does bring people together easily. These lockdown times are difficult for individuals living alone and to have this virtual option brings the world into your living room without risk of ignoring the guidelines for safe contact. It is a positive exercise that really in my opinion could continue when life returns to normality.
Virtual FAN has helped me understand the different lifestyles that members have followed. Keeping in touch with members is a great start to the week and I can see the benefits for individuals that do not have a large group of friends and family or are in any way have restricted social interaction due to illness or disability.
To people that have not dipped their toe in the water of FAN, you are missing out greatly and as with all social groups the more the merrier and opinions across a great divide makes for better conversation.
Hi! I'm Susana, born in Argentina but I've been living in Santander, north of Spain, for many years. I also had the opportunity of living in Cardiff where I met friends in FAN groups. I used to go mostly to Canton Library FAN meetings and to the Central Library meetings.
When the lockdown started I thought of getting in touch with my friends from FAN groups. Fortunately, my intention was made real when I got an invitation from Ian to join a meeting on a Saturday. Meeting and sharing again was a very moving experience. I was elated, even though it was through video conferencing.
I cannot manage lockdown very well. I have been going through different emotions. Sometimes feeling I can cope with it, sometimes feeling drained. However, this opportunity of meeting and chatting with my old FAN friends, contacting such wonderful human beings, gave me the strength to go on, to stay more positive, to believe I can, to look at the bright side of the situation. FAN beats loneliness, what's more, it is a safe place to make real friends. I love the opening and closing lines of the meeting, every word and every sentence means a lot to me. Moreover, following a topic without interruption, sharing without prejudices, it is the most wonderful experience ever. I would say it is pure and healthy communication that boots one's day and week.
I definitely love virtual FAN too. It is the only way for the ones who have left Cardiff but would love to keep in touch with FAN. For new comers it is a great opportunity of meeting people from all over the world, people of all ages and backgrounds, what makes it very interesting and enriching. I recommend coming to FAN video conference meeting so to stay closer in spite of the virus.
Hello, name is Mario Donoso. I'm from Spain and I came to Cardiff to improve my English. I discovered FAN meetings groups because a friend introduced me. After my first meeting, I tried to go to the FAN meetings twice a week because I really liked it.
From the first moment I liked the idea that people meet to speak about a topic, to talk and to listen to others. It could be useful to develop some communication skills as well to learn to listen to others; but especially to share experiences, meet people and have links between people of different nationalities, ages, cultures or points of view.
For me it was also interesting because it allowed me to improve my English level. Participants are friendly and talkative; the atmosphere is nice and the organisers are dedicated and welcoming. I really would like to thanks the organisers for their dedication, their kindness and their amiability, as well for their preparations for each meeting.
I recommend everybody living in Cardiff, or visiting the city, to participate. It is a very good experience. I really hope FAN will continue allowing people share histories and experiences as well as providing an enjoyable occasion.
Hello. My name is Terho Valkonen, 34 years old and from Finland.
I spent three months in Wales in the spring of 2019. I'm working for the city of Jyväskylä in Finland and my employee gave me an opportunity to work for a couple of months at Age Cymru in Cardiff. The idea of my international work exchange was to create networks in Wales and get new ideas for my work in Finland. I took part in FAN meetings at the Canton Library almost every week after I heard about them. The meetings meant so much for me because I didn't know almost anybody in Cardiff with whom I could spend free time.
I felt like another person after every meeting. The meetings gave me a lot of confidence to speak English when having problems to understand Welsh dialect in my daily life. It was also interesting to hear point of views ab out different topics from people who come from all over the world and who are of different ages. I think it's very important that there are also local people at FAN meetings because it helps to understand better the local culture.
I really respect the workers of the FAN Charity and all the volunteers. My job in Finland is to produce cultural events and activities mostly for older people and international groups. You never know if I start a FAN group some day in Jyväskylä. I think my time in Cardiff would have been much less fun without FAN meetings.
Hello. My name is Ondřej Ponížil. I am from the Czech Republic.
I am staying in Cardiff this summer and I am studying English in language school during the week and travelling around at weekends. My favourite places in Cardiff are Roath Park and Bute Park with the Castle. I also like the big focus in the city on sporting events. I have been to rugby, football and cricket matches in my short time here.
I was told about FAN Group by my classmates in the language school.
I enjoy the meetings because I like listening to the ideas and thoughts of people with different cultures, religions and life styles. Every meeting shows me a new way of thinking and I leave healthily confused but stimulated! The FAN meeting is also a place where you can find company and make new friends in a new city.
My name is Francedy Conde. I am French and I come from Paris. I have got a few years of experience as a financial auditor. I need to be fluent in English to communicate in a variety of situations with customers, business partners, colleagues,... That is why, a few months ago, I came to Cardiff to improve and develop my English skills.
Why Cardiff? The Welsh people are well-known for their friendliness. I find the City of Cardiff amazing, peaceful and safe. Here, people are really friendly.
One day, a friend of mine recommended FAN Groups, which help to bring together people of all ages and backgrounds in a spirit of friendship and living together.
FAN meetings are an opportunity to share a human experience and share a part of our life. I believe that life is better with living together in the spirit of friendship.
I’m Sihan Ni, a student of Cardiff University. I come from Suzhou, one of the ancient cities in Southern China.
After living here a few months, I feel Cardiff is quite peaceful and historical, which is ideal for students. The natural landscape around the city is definitely worth visiting. I have enjoyed a lot living in Cardiff.
When I first came to Cardiff last year, I searched for more chances to practice my oral English skills with native speakers. Bangarang! I found FAN groups here. Gill, Ian, Sarah welcomed and encouraged me very kindly. In such an hour, I’m glad to meet people from different cultural backgrounds and listen to their stories.
I must say thank you to all the FAN Group members. So nice to meet you in Cardiff.
My name is Carol and I am English. I moved to Cardiff in 2016, but I didn't know anyone here except my daughter, who works full-time. I started helping at a drop-in centre for asylum-seekers and refugees, and a young Iranian refugee told me about FAN groups. He went to FAN to improve his English and to meet local people. I went along to the Saturday group and I've been going ever since! I like to go to some of the other groups too, when I can, and I encourage other people to come along.
You can meet people, make friends and learn some really interesting things about people from around the world, all through going to a FAN group regularly. I think listening to other people talk makes you understand more about the world and how we all get along, or disagree.
Sometimes it's hard for older people like me to get to know other people, even in a friendly city like Cardiff, but FAN puts you in touch with people of all ages and backgrounds. Now I feel like I belong in Cardiff, mainly thanks to the friends I've made in FAN.
My name is Jing Wang and I’m from Shanghai, China. I came to Cardiff to study and now I’m a postgraduate student in Cardiff Business School.
Cardiff is a peaceful city with comfortable weather, I love living here because people are very friendly and there are various interesting activities for young people. I like Cardiff also because I can meet new friends from different countries here and find many Asian restaurants when I miss Chinese food.
I heard about FAN Group from my friend and then I searched it for more information on Facebook.
I like FAN Group because it provides a comfortable atmosphere for talking and sharing. During every week’s discussion, everyone is encouraged to present their opinions freely and show respect when being a listener. As the members of FAN Group are from different countries with diverse life experience, it is enjoyable for me to listen to their views about a specific topic and know more about different cultures. Sometimes I may feel lonely due to studying abroad, but I have had a good time through FAN Group’s weekly talk. I’m really appreciate that I have joined FAN Group and met many lovely friends here, hope more people will join this warm charity in the future.
My name in Margaret Hancock.
I was born in Ebbw Vale, an industrial town at the head of the Ebbw Valley.
I studied German in Birmingham and at a German university, and afterwards came to Cardiff to work in a Girl’s Grammar School.
I have two children and two grandchildren and at the moment they all live in Cardiff – which I love and regard as a big ‘village’.
I started coming to FAN shortly after Gill Saunders had the brilliant idea of founding it in 2003.
I really enjoy the meetings as there are people from so many backgrounds and cultures. It’s particularly nice to hear the stories and views of other cultures and generations.
My name is Albanery Castagna. I was born in Colombia South America.
I came to the UK when I met my new family 15 years ago.
Cardiff is my favourite city with the friendly people, the river crossing the city, the parks, the cycle ways. I like that the city is not too big.
A friend introduced me to the FAN Group in 2015. At the beginning I was attending different groups each week, especially Canton Library and now Cardiff Central Library.
FAN Group is multicultural, sociable, and friendly. I have the opportunity to learn more English and to meet new friends from the UK and from other countries around the world.
My name is Raymond Harries. I am aged 70 and am now retired. I was born in Swansea, Wales, and brought up in Riverside, Cardiff. I went to school and college in Cardiff, where I worked in accountancy for 15 years before going to London for 15 years, where I worked as a barrister and arbitrator. I returned to Cardiff to care for my disabled sister.
I particularly like the city because of all the cultural events taking place. Cardiff also has a fine shopping centre, extensive parks, and good health services.
I found out about FAN from my niece and a friend who is a member.
FAN Groups are based in different venues across the city and different times throughout the week and bring together a diverse range of interesting people of all ages and backgrounds. The meetings are particularly patronised by overseas students and other young people, and by retirees like myself. Everyone attending is so friendly that I look forward to the meetings over tea/coffee. The meetings are free and it is a treat to hear the contributions from people from different countries.
My name is Daniel Kim. I am from South Korea.
I came to Cardiff as a visiting academic for one year.
I like Cardiff very much because it is a safe place and near the sea. I can go to the Bay whenever I want with my bike.
I found out about FAN at the local library.
FAN is like an oasis in a desert to me because I came here alone and would have had no one to talk to, but for FAN. I am really grateful to FAN for giving me opportunities to meet the wonderful people living here.
My name is Andreia Carvalho.
I was born in Vila Nova de Famalicão, Portugal.
I came to Cardiff because my husband found a job opportunity here.
I love Cardiff because it is a beautiful and safe city, where there are multiple services and opportunities for study and work. The people are very polite and friendly.
I found out about FAN Group, because I watched their meetings when I went to the Canton Library.
What I like most about FAN Group is that it is an environment of respect, confidentiality and friendship in which you can learn new skills and improve your English.
My name is Barbara Beynon. I was born in Cardiff in Wales and have lived here all my life. I am now 75 years old.
I love the city. It has loads to offer for all – whatever their age and whatever their background.
I heard about FAN from its founder Gill Saunders. I attended the 1st meeting of a FAN Group at the M.A.D.E. café and craft store in Roath.
FAN Group meetings offer an opportunity to meet and enjoy the company of lovely people of all ages and from many countries. It gives me great pleasure.
My name is Mogdad, I am a 26 year old engineer. Originally from Sudan, a country which has a combination of Arabic & African cultures.
Since I settled in Cardiff in early 2016, I have been working & studying in this vibrant capital of Wales. I even consider it as my home. What I like most about Cardiff is the multiculturalism, where you find yourself surrounded by kind, friendly and open-minded people from all over the world.
The first time I heard of FAN was by chance recommendation from a friend of mine who had experienced some of their meetings. Then a few days later I joined the FAN meeting in the Cardiff Central Library.
I am always impressed by the atmosphere at FAN meetings. I get to share and interact with diverse people from various cultures and nations. Also, people gather together to discuss such fascinating topics.
No doubt FAN Group has assisted in shaping my thinking and provided me with a magnificent inspiration. Diolch!
My name is David Nicholls. I was born in 1933 in Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire in England. It was work that brought me to Cardiff in 1973.
Late 2008 I was introduced to Space4U, a drop-in centre for asylum seekers and refugees in Newport Road, Cardiff, and became a volunteer.
At the time there was a FAN Group there as one of their activities, and I soon became a regular attendee of the FAN Group. As l learned more about FAN, it's origins, history, aims and attended other FAN Groups, the more I liked it. I became treasurer of the charity.
I see it as a great organisation for helping community integration.
My name is Simon Grajer. I am 20 years old and was born in a small village near Weiden in the North East of Bavaria in Germany. Since I started studying I live in Passau in the very South East of Germany.
I came to Cardiff to study law for one academic year within the Erasmus+ programme for European exchange students at Cardiff University. I enjoy my studies and the life here in Cardiff very much and don´t regret my decision to go abroad. It is an amazing experience!
The first time I heard of FAN was at a reception for Erasmus students in Cardiff Central Library, where Ian and Sarah presented FAN to the international students. A few weeks later I joined the FAN meeting in the Central Library. I always liked the great variety of nations and cultures that come together to have a peaceful and interesting discussion. FAN helped me to broaden my mind.
Thank you, FAN, for being such an enrichment for my Erasmus-year.
My name is Susana Zinoni
I was born in Parana, Argentina but lived for many years in Santander, Spain.
I am living in Cardiff because my husband came to work here.
I love Cardiff - most of all for its friendly people. Also, the parks and the cultural and sporting activities.
I learnt about FAN through a leaflet I came across.
FAN is a multicultural group, people from all over the world come to meet and share their thoughts and ideas. The diversity at a FAN Group meeting makes it interesting. I also like the fact that it encourages friendship.
My name is Fawaz Alzabari. I am 24 years old. I am a Muslim. I am from Saudi Arabia (officially called the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – KSA), specifically from a small city called Najran from the south west of the country.
I have been in Cardiff since April 2017. I am an engineer and I am here to prepare to start a Master’s Degree. At this time I am studying on an English language course.
I like Cardiff. There are many things to do with friendly people who live here and who like to help people like me from another country. I also like Cardiff because it has a lot of international people to share with them your culture and to learn about their culture.
I found out about FAN Group from information given to me by a friend. I like FAN because I can practice and improve my language, and also to meet native speakers and people from other countries. I have noticed the change in myself in speaking and understanding from my first FAN meeting in May 2017 until now ... thank you FAN Group and to those who work for this charity!