The Baytree Centre on Brixton Road teaches more than 100 migrant and refugee women and girls who come every week to learn English. These are normal people here to try and make a life for themselves- sharing stories is a powerful way to show that.
Changing as Brixton changesThe Baytree Centre was founded as a women’s space 25 years ago, in response to the Brixton Riots. As Brixton has changed, what we deliver has changed – and it’s usually led by what the women bring in. We have judo and Capoeira classes because of an idea: “I can teach this, and it will help other people.”
From the ground up
Then from the other side, we have things that happen because the young people say they need support. We have one group of 12-13 year olds who wanted a room they could decorate themselves. We have another group who wanted to set up a Baytree Council. They’ve taken ownership of surveying users’ opinions and organising votes on how to make the centre better.
Inspiration from everywhere
The diversity of the volunteer mentors is one of the greatest strengths we have. Girls coming into the community can really struggle with aspiration –their mentor is often the first woman they meet who isn’t family or a teacher, and who is a real role model for becoming a doctor or a lawyer, or can help them really work towards a profession.
We are about making a long-term impact on the community. In some cases we’re now seeing the new generation, the girls here now are the daughters of those who came to learn English 20 years ago. We’re always changing, we’re always asking what people want, our future is shaped by what people need.