Hey its Jennifer! My placement whilst here in England has been at a place called Changing Lives. Changing Lives is a national, registered charity which provides specialist support services for thousands of vulnerable people and their families, every month. Specifically I am located at the branch in Chester le Street. This specific branch offers support and housing to single homeless men, including those with substance and mental health concerns. I absolutely love working here and hanging out with the residents. They certainly provide me with a lot of insight into addiction and other ways in which adults can be classified as vulnerable. Ive had exposure to people dealing with mental illness and addictions so this was nothing new and there were no stigmas that I necessarily had to breakdown in terms of mentally ill people and people going through recovery. I think that basic understanding is what gives me the foundation to truly take ore out of this experience. Whilst here Ive had the chance to go to Alcoholics Anonymous sessions and other group sessions similar to this and that is really where I found out about the struggles of having an addiction and mental illnesses in a world where society doesn't accept it and often doesn't provide support. I really do enjoy working at this location because it is real, a lot of the staff are going through recovery or have been homeless as well and so its a place where there is a true sense of community and support from people who have been through similar experiences and I have appreciated my time here.
Hi everyone! It’s Brian again, with just a few days left before the program ends and we head back home. These four weeks have been a tremendous experience for me and I’ve really enjoyed being able to experience a foreign culture here in Durham, England. We’ve had a jam-packed schedule that has included a tour of Durham Cathedral and Alnwick Castle, a panel with the mayor and other city officials about the economic state of Durham, marching in the annual Miner’s Gala, and a tour of the coal mines at Beamish; all exciting activities that have taught us a lot about the culture of Durham.
For our work placements, Cord and I have been working with the Drug and Alcohol Recovery Team (DART) at HM Prison Durham. DART works with inmates who struggle with substance abuse or addictions and helps them to overcome their addictions and plan for a clean, healthy life once they are released from prison. We have had the opportunity to see almost all facets of their work as well as other similar programs that are going on in the prison, including vocational training, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and SMART (Self Management and Recovery Training). All of these groups have been extremely welcoming to us, and we’ve had plenty of opportunities to chat with the prisoners and get to know them pretty well. It’s been really terrific to get such an up-close look at something that I really didn’t have much exposure to beforehand outside of movies and popular stereotypes. Some of the stories the prisoners have told about their addictions completely took over their lives have been a bit shocking, but there is some really great working being done as they progress in their recoveries. I’ve been overwhelmed with how friendly and open they all are, both amongst each other and with Cord and I. Overall, it’s been a fantastic experience at the prison and in Durham for the past few weeks!
Greetings from Durham, England! It is hard to believe that we have already been here for TWO weeks! Time really does fly when you’re having fun! We have seen all sorts of cultural sights here in Durham, including the Durham Cathedral, the Beamish Mining Museum, and the Miner’s Gala all in our first week! This past week, we attended Jon Faddis’ really incredible jazz concert. It was a lovely complement to the Streets of Brass Festival that we volunteered with earlier in the week. I have a new-found appreciation for jazz and especially the trumpet!
I am working with Jiayu and Juliana at Waddington Street Centre, which is a lovely mental health resource that is nestled just outside the heart of Durham city. This first week, I have been working on the Support rotation. Throughout the course of the next two weeks, I’ll be spending a week in each of the Health Trainer and Education rotations, which I’m really looking forward to. In Support, I spent a lot of time in the main sitting area chatting with various service users throughout the day. One particular service user proved to be especially talkative and I quickly learned that he had worked for fifteen years in the mines of England when he was a young boy. At age 15, he told me, he was too young to enter the military, but he wanted to get a job. He began working in the mines after he completed at 30-week training course (I was relieved to hear that they actually had those!). I couldn’t imagine being lowered down into a 900 foot deep shaft by a rope and pulley system! Apparently, one of the mines he worked in was seven miles below sea level. Wow! It’s really incredible to me to think of the vast differences between being 15 in the 1960s and being 15 today. This gentleman was earning 35 pounds a week doing dangerous and dirty work, while most of us at age 15 are still in the classroom!
Today, Waddington Street Centre had its annual celebration where its many talents and achievements are showcased. We were entertained by the WSC music class with some original compositions and cover songs and I was “wow’ed” by the talented writers and performers in the writing/poetry and drama classes! It was really a lovely day for all, complete with a little awards ceremony for outstanding performances in various classes. Even though I spent a whole week in the lounge area playing games, chatting, and meeting new folks, it was good to see some new faces today, as well! I was very impressed by the turnout for today’s event and also by the overwhelming support of WSC’s service users from the community and the service users’ personal friends and family. It was really such a wonderful day and showed me truly how much WSC means to so many people!
I have really enjoyed drawing comparisons and contrasts between Waddington Street Centre and Threshold, which is the mental health resource where Jiayu and I were placed for six weeks in Durham, NC. I think both facilities have enjoyed hearing the differences and similarities, as well! I am eager to take some ideas inspired by Waddington Street Centre back to Threshold, where I hope to continue volunteering with throughout the rest of my time in Durham.
Hey it’s Courtney again. On Wednesday our DukeEngage group visited Durham Town Hall. Rebuilt in 1851, this building is located in the middle of the city Market Place. Through this experience we got to hear (mostly at least, due to the loud street performer outside) about the history of the Town Hall, including information about the mayor’s guards, civic insignia (the sword, mace, etc.) and of the building of the town hall itself.
The Town Hall houses the Mayor’s Chamber where the mayoral proceedings of Durham take place. We got the opportunity to engage in a panel discussion with the current mayor of Durham, Mayor Jon Robinson, and other notable figures in Durham.
We also heard a very interesting story about a Polish man named Joseph Boruwłaski from the 18th century, who was around 99 centimeters and lived to be 97 years old. He toured around Europe during his lifetime, winning over people with his musical talent and wit, and eventually retired in Durham, England. There was a life sized portrait of him hanging in the Town Hall, as well as a life sized statue. Ultimately it was a very informative and cool experience, as the building was built so long ago and is still used today.
Hello! This is Jiayu, and as is evident from my post title, I’m still not quite over the “I’m abroad” euphoria (even though it’s been two weeks, how did it happen so fast?). We had a packed orientation to Durham the first week, learning about the mining heritage of the area as well as exploring the local culture, as our arrival fortunately coincided with both the Miner’s Gala and the Durham Brass Festival. My personal favourite activities were our trip to Beamish and the tour of the Durham Cathedral (the Miner’s Gala would have been on the list had there been fewer people).
The extremely busy Miner's Gala!
It was difficult for me to fully appreciate the hardiness of the miner’s character just from reading and hearing people speak, but walking into a mine and imagining working in cramped darkness while eating nothing but jam sandwiches made the Miner’s Gala come alive and seem much more relevant. (As a side note, the hatred for Margaret Thatcher is very real. On the day of the Gala, I saw a shirt with the slogan “Rot in hell, Thatcher!”) The tour of the Cathedral was a nice touch into understanding the historical value and heritage of Durham apart from its mining tradition, giving us a better cultural immersion into the town and more to talk about with locals whom we work with (the view from the top is also spectacular and completely worth the climb!).
Durham Cathedral! (Also, Harry Potter!)
Nevertheless, I have to say that the best part of my past two weeks is my placement at Waddington Street Centre! The work culture there (or maybe it’s England) is relaxed and everyone is extremely approachable. It is an interesting transition from Threshold, as Waddington Street Centre has a completely different focus. While we worked on setting up employment opportunities and promoting financial literacy at Threshold, Waddington Street Centre is much more about education, and I spent the majority of my week rotating around to different interest and hobby classes including drama, art, art history, and music appreciation. In fact, the Centre had an awards ceremony today to celebrate learning and education, and we made some paper roses for event decoration!
It is incredibly hard to believe that we have already been in the UK for two weeks! From touring the Durham Cathedral, to attending the Miners’s Gala to beginning our work in our new placements, the first half of our time here in England has been action packed and filled with opportunities to learn about our new host community.
One of my favorite activities that we have participated in since arriving across the river was exploring Beamish. Beamish is known as “The Living Museum of the North” and is host to 300 acres of history. The museum contains a city area modeled after an early 20th century town, complete with a pub, dentist office and even a working bakery, a railway station, and a colliery village. We had the privilege of taking an underground tour of one of the mines. This trip was especially important to our understanding of the history of Durham county, as the county’s economy was built upon the coal mining industry, much like Durham, North Carolina’s economy was built upon the tobacco industry. Touring inside the coal mine gave us insight into the real day-to day experience of coal miners and exposed us to the dangers of the profession.
For my placement, I work with Abby and Jaiyu at the Waddington Street Centre, which offers educational courses, health services and courses, socializing opportunities, and a supporting environment to members of the community who suffer from long-lasting mental health problems. Though I was first apprehensive about my ability to work in a place targeted at serving people suffering from mental health problems, I now couldn’t be more happy and excited about my placement. The Waddington Street center provides an amazing work environment filled with people who are truly committed to and passionate about their organization. The centre provides so many opportunities for its service users, and it is clear that it is truly improving people’s lives. I have also learned a tremendous amount from the service users. I had the opportunity to speak with a service user who spent 15 years of his life working in coal mines. Hearing this first-hand account of life in the mines really added upon my understanding of this lifestyle that I had begun to comprehend during the tour at Beamish. Working at the Waddington Street Centre has challenged my view of mental illness and has exposed me to an incredibly vibrant, creative, and inspiring group of people. I am so excited and honored to be able to spend the next two weeks working in this great community!
-- By Zoey
First time in England is always a charm. Upon our first arrival in Durham, we had a tour around the city and we were all stunned by its beauty. Similar to Durham in North Carolina, there is a university located inside the city-- Durham University. Besides that, Durham is a quaint little town filled with flowers, music, and history. There is a castle and a cathedral, both over 800 years old. As early as the medieval period, Durham gained its spiritual prominence because of the final resting place of St. Cuthbert and St. Bede. in Durham Cathedral. Now, Durham is a booming city in education, service and technology, attracting students, tourists and companies from all over the world.
This Wednesday, we were invited to a panel in the city of Durham Town Hall. We met the major of the City of Durham, Mayor Jon Robinson, the Vice Chancellor of Durham University, Professor Christopher Higgins, and some other professors as well as the council members. Interestingly, we found out that the Mayor of Durham carries a fifteen-man bodyguard which was primarily used to collect taxes and protect the City against Scottish raiders. Apart from the Mayor of Durham, this level of men-at-arms status is only enjoyed by the Mayor of London.
One thing during the conversation that particularly struck me was the significance of history to Durham. As the Mayor said, " Durham has the tenacity to remain the sense of place and identity." This reminds me of the Miner's Gala last Saturday. Just as Durham NC, Durham UK also once had a key industry that dominated the economy. It is coal mining. There were hundreds of mining pits scattered around Durham area and every year, villagers from different pits would march down to the city with their respective banners. Political speeches would be made. People would drink and celebrate. Even though the mining industry has completely subsidized in Durham, the Miner's Gala continues and evolves into a unique culture scene in Durham.
The future of Durham lies in a sustainable economy for half a million population. The collaboration between the university and the city council has produced great results. The NETpark provides a great medium for technology-driven development. It also encourages innovation and attract companies to set base in Durham. This aligns with the goal of diversification. There is also great diversity inside the city. There is a prominent Japanese community and Chinese community. Durham, with all the past prosper and glory, is marching forward at a dazzling pace.
Our first week in Durham, England has been an extremely busy, enriching, and fun-filled experience. Every day is packed with activities, ranging from visiting local elementary schools, learning about the mining history via members of the community, interacting with Durham University summer school students, and climbing all 327 steps of the Durham Cathedral. The busyness continued throughout the weekend, as we were able to attend the Miner’s Gala on Saturday and the Brass Festival on Sunday.
So far, one of my most memorable experiences has been the chance to interact on a individual level with various members of the community. Canshu and I are placed at the Durham Employment & Skills (DES) office, which is a government branch that implements a required two-year training program for unemployed citizens. The goal is to make these individuals more employable by teaching them interviewing and communication skills, as well as basic math and English in order to attain higher levels of education certification. Our bosses and co-workers are more than willing to ensure that our three and a half weeks of working here are as meaningful as possible, so Canshu and I are able to choose the goals we want to attain during our time at DES. As our DukeEngage program is centered on the comparison of economic redevelopment between our Durham and this Durham, we decided we wanted to hear firsthand accounts of local citizen’s opinions of the economy. Three middle-aged men native to county Durham informed us of their strong dislike of Margaret Thatcher, explaining that her goals of improving the wealth of London and its surrounding neighbors made conditions worse and worse the further north you got, until the very Northeast region of county Durham. As we spoke with a group who was frustratingly unemployed, they went on further tangents about the state of the economy, upset by the lack of jobs and gap between those unemployed and those living in “posh” city Durham. Having the opportunities to learn about Durham, England and its economy and culture via locals’ personal stories and experiences has made our first week in Durham exceptionally meaningful. I can’t wait to hear more of these stories in our few weeks to come!
Hey it's Courtney again. In honor of our last few days in Durham, NC, our question of the week is “What about Durham?” Three simple words with such a long and complicated answer. This goes back to our discussion from last week, when we considered the dangers of a single story. To answer the question of what about Durham simply would be chalking it up to a single story. Durham is a city of rich history and a promising future. It is a city of economic growth and various socioeconomic statuses. It is a city with nice neighborhoods, not so nice neighborhoods, a top 10 universities, and everything in between. This is not nearly close enough to a full description of the city, but it’s an important start. The language of this description is important in preserving all that is Durham. It is not this or that, but rather this and that. People are quick to focus solely on the parts of Durham that support whatever argument they’re trying to make. “Let’s go to Durham it has an interesting downtown with great eateries” can sometimes be as detrimental as “Let’s avoid Durham because of all the crime” if the positive “side” of Durham is thought to be just that, a different, “better” side of Durham. No part of Durham is entirely good, and no part is entirely bad, and Durham cannot be boiled down into one adjective. So “what about Durham”? Why choose to spend your summer in Durham NC? After these past six weeks, summer of 2013 which I also spent in Durham, and the three years I have spent here as a student I’ve come to my own personal conclusion. As the saying goes “you learn something new everyday”, and with the city that’s entirely true. Everyday spent in Durham you find something new about the city, whether it be a fact, restaurant, start-up, new housing development, etc. Durham is the gift that keeps on giving, and that’s what I personally find so fascinating and enthralling about the city.