A big welcome to all (new and old) Ashwellians! We hope that you have settled in nicely and that you are ready to start off this new academic year: one that we hope will be filled with friendship, laughter, joy, learning and sharing. Many opportunities to learn, live and grow will come your way throughout the year. Make the most out of them as your time as a student is limited. Girls: we hope that you have a blast this year at Ashwell and that this year will be one that you remember..
There are many different opportunities to learn, grow, travel and give back to others at Ashwell house. Volunteering abroad is one of those experiences. We recently had one of our girls, Federica Saez, go to Kenya to volunteer for two weeks. She stayed in two different centres: The Mother Teresa Centre and the Kwetu centre.
“I spent my first week working in the Mother Teresa centre which is a centre for mentally and physically disabled girls. There were fifty girls there, all of different ages. Most of them weren’t even able to feed themselves so we had to feed them. I also had to cut their nails and play with them. The main thing was just to be there because the girls needed company. Most of them couldn’t move around and some couldn’t speak but they could feel our presence. What surprised the most was how happy and joyful the staff was. There were only about ten nuns working there but they were always smiling and singing.
The first day, upon arrival, I was so shocked at the sight of all those girls but I quickly got to work and realized that I didn’t need to pity them because they were so happy. They could see beauty and happiness in the most basic of things. This was something that really struck me as I would never see something like this in my own country.
The second week, I worked in the Kwetu centre in Nairobi: a charity that works with children from the streets.
The Kwetu centre gets a new group of children from the streets every three months. The children are between 6 and 13 years old. The centre rehabilitates them, teaches them good basic habits and gives them a basic education on drugs. They also work closely with some of the families to try and teach them the danger of drugs.
I helped with playing and caring for the children.
I also went to their main centre which is an another city. It is where the children go after the three months of rehabilitation. They focus on education and developing the children’s talents there.
While I was there, I went to a Mass that was held for one of the boys who died and there was a big party afterwards. There were lots of parents there and the children put on a show. They mainly did acrobatics but it was very impressive as they were as good as professionals.
On top of helping in the centres, I had the chance to meet an African tribe and see baby elephants. Kenya is such as beautiful place and the wildlife there is amazing.
Going to Kenya to volunteer was something that I wanted to do since I was young. It ended being a rewarding experience and one that I will never forget. I learnt and discovered so much during my time there. It was a beautiful place there and I hope to be able to go back there one day. I learned so much about myself and what I could do there.
However, the experience made me realize that you don’t need to go to Africa to help people, so I came back happier because I realized I can do a lot here.” Federica Saez
Since 1962, Ashwell House has accommodated hundreds of girls who embarked on their studies in London. This academic year students have maximized Ashwell’s public presence by launching a new website and opening social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram.
But an especially exciting step for Ashwell has been the process of creating a range of merchandise. A few months ago, a small group of us worked together to come up with a design which would be suitable to print onto hoodies and sweatshirts. In order to match the theme of Ashwell’s website, burgundy was chosen as the base colour along with white and grey. These colours combined together could create a powerful sense of belonging.
Joana Barragan, a third year resident in Ashwell, played a large part in both the design and administration of the hoodies. “The hardest part was incorporating a bit of every contribution into the final design. But at the same time, it was made easy because everyone was open-minded and focused on finding the best design for the whole of Ashwell and not just implementing their own ideas.”
After a lengthy process, 38 orders were placed to a leading merchandise company, with hoodies and sweaters being sent out to past residents in Malta, India, China and the Netherlands.
“This is my third year in Ashwell, but I only needed one year for it to feel like a home to me,” Joana continued. “It is a place to be grateful for, because it allows one to make sisterly friendships and grow as a person in an amazing environment.” With the merchandise even going abroad internationally, the hoodies acted as a sign to former girls that they will always be a part of the Ashwell community. “I am proud to have contributed to Ashwell, just like every other girl before me. I think that having placed 38 orders in total really shows how excited the girls are to be identified as part of this hall of residence. I would take my Ashwell sweatshirt anywhere because, not only is it beautiful but it means something special to me and I am proud to show it to the world.”
Introducing merchandise to the house has been a carefully thought through initiative of the 2015/16 Ashwell Committee. Joana shared her hopes for future years that a permanent stock can be supplied and refilled as needed. “Leavers Hoodies is our garment provider and they’ve been doing a great job so far. Maybe next time, Ashwell mugs!”
During exam period, we all need our breaks: exploring new things, exercising the body and clearing the mind from our daily struggles. And what better way to do just th
at than by going on a road-trip with friends! We decided to go to Bath, a three-hour drive across vast fields of green. Time enough to sing to the radio, to play the guitar, to pray, to admire nature and to get to know each other better. Once in Bath we had a lovely picnic with cheese and pâté specially imported from France! We walk
ed across Bath, visiting the Abbey, the Roman Baths, the Royal Crescent, the “Circus”, and wandered around the town learning about the history of Bath from a very accurate source.
After a nice cup of tea and hot chocolate, we decided to drive to Stonehenge, a one-hour drive from Bath. This was to find out that the last tickets had been sold. However we didn’t give up and decided to see the prehistoric monument from another road close to it. Despite the rain and the strong winds, we were able to get pretty good pictures! We continued our journey back to London; again, wrapping up the day with acoustic singing and playing the guitar in the car, and a wonderful late dinner in Ashwell House. The perfect daytrip.
Last Friday we welcomed Robbie Macmillan to our get-together to talk about his charity supporting children in Rwanda. In his final year reading International Relations and Politics at the University of Dundee, Scotland, he decided to travel to Western Rwanda. He visited an orphanage there and while the children were well looked after, many children in the village were suffering of severe malnutrition and basic material deprivation. When returning to the UK he set up the charity and has since supported these young children with education and health care.
We all felt very inspired by Robbie’s account and the good he wants to show. We all wanted to support his amazing charity
This year during Holy Week, we traveled to Rome to attend the UNIV Congress and spend the most important week of the Church’s year close to the Pope. Over the week we visited the iconic historical sites of Rome – growing spiritually along the way and discovering muscles and tendons in our legs that we never knew we had! Our highlights were meeting the Holy Father on various occasions, two memorable get-togethers with the Father (the Prelate of Opus Dei) and eating the most delicious pizza and gelato! We encourage future Ashwellians to follow in our footsteps by attending UNIV, and having made a wish at the Trevi Fountain, we hope to go back too!