Friday 3rd May 2019
International Student House or ISH in London, one of the two members of International Houses World Wide in London, has always had a royal patronage. The Queen Mother was a devoted supporter whilst she was alive and when she died the Queen’s daughter, Princess Anne took over.
To celebrate the 54th birthday of ISH, the wonderful ISH team threw a very British garden party in the gardens adjacent to their beautiful Nash Crescent building right in the heart of London and Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal was the guest of honour. Luckily for us the promised British weather held off so we could enjoy the delicious food and company.
ISH was founded thanks to the dynamic persistence of Mary Trevelyan, who like my great grandfather Harry Edmonds, encountered lonely international students and chose to do something about their situation. For more background this blog post from the ISH website written by Jilly Borowiecka, who has devoted much of her career to the House, is well worth a read. https://ish.org.uk/the-legacy-of-ish/
Mary shared Harry’s goals of developing tolerance, understanding and international friendship. At the party I was lucky enough to come across The Rev. Tim Brooke, who had worked at ISH in the 1960s, in fact he may well have been there when Harry visited on his trip. Tim worked closely with Mary and so I asked him about her. He described her as being full of energy and enthusiasm, with a love of people rather than the administration and money side of running the House. Luckily for Tim his job was on the people side so he got to see the best of Mary. He shared with me that she always told her team that just talking to residents or alumni was never enough as they must introduce the person they were talking to to at least one other person, only by doing this would they get the ‘snow ball’ effect and ‘the idea’ would spread. I loved this as I thought it was such a simple message but could create such impact.
I spent most of my afternoon talking to current residents. ISH has a mix of undergraduate and graduate students and as you would expect I travelled the world in my conversations from Peru and Colombia, through Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria, to Afghanistan and Iran, onto India and Pakistan and into China and Tibet.
The ISH team are doing an amazing job of growing their scholarship program. This year they have 103 scholars from 44 countries and have plans to go to 120+ next year. Working with partner institutions across London ISH the scholars, who would not normally be able to study in the UK, both their tuition and accommodation at ISH funded. https://ish.org.uk/scholarship/
Alongside this great scholarship programme and the brilliant location of ISH, the thing that stands out for me is the wonderful team that bring the whole experience of ISH to life for their residents. Yesterday I saw them in action, how they love to celebrate and also how they value every member of the team. Princess Anne seemed also to pick up on this as she took the time to acknowledge and chat with those staff members featured in a video about ISH’s work. The team definitely care about the work they do welcoming young people from across the world and making their time in London life changing.
A young academic from Syria gave the speech, he had been helped to come to the UK by CARA (Council for At-Risk Academics) https://www.cara.ngo and was living at ISH. His speech was a touching description of how being at ISH had transformed his life and of gratitude for the love and care of so many and for the new friends he had made from around the world. In his speech he shared this lovely Pericles quote: “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” Harry and Mary have both left so much woven into the lives of so many….