The first time you walk into EMBS, the first person you’re likely to see is a radiant, warm-hearted African woman, welcoming you in from behind a receptionist desk. “Hello, sweetie, how are you?” she asks, smiling.
Her name is Nyambz, and our students and staff consider her to be the “heart” and the “face” of EMBS. She is the first person students encounter in the morning and the last person they bid goodnight to in the evening. She cares deeply about the students – she calls them at home if they are missing classes, she checks in with them if she knows they’re struggling, she gives hugs, she remembers birthdays, she senses if someone needs extra help or a warm cup of tea. It’s no wonder that her nickname around the office is “Mamma Africa.”
One thing you might not have guessed about Nyambz is that she was once a student herself at EMBS, 18 years ago. She moved to Oxford back in 2002 with her husband and her two small children. In Africa, she was taught how to read and write English in school, but she had almost no speaking or conversation practise. This, along with just wanting to get out of the house, made her first come to EMBS to take a childcare course.
After the childcare course ended, she found the confidence to do her first work experience, at the Balwaadi Creche, a playgroup for children up to 8 years old. She found that her English really started improving during this time because she had to interact with and communicate with lots of people every day.
In 2007, she started working on the admin team at EMBS, from 9-5. Over more than a decade of working here, she has become instrumental to our small college. She says her favourite part about her job is that she can “meet people from all walks of life.”
“I’m really privileged to have met a lot of people here, and some of them are my best friends,” she comments.
So, how did she do it? How did she go from a student here to one of the most cherished and integral employees? And how did she improve her English to the level of a native speaker?
“Just don’t give up!” she advises. “Attend the classes. If you don’t attend, you won’t progress. If you keep doing it, you will improve.”
“There’s an expression in my language – it’s similar to ‘you reap what you sow’ in English. But it sounds better in my language! Nothing comes for free in life – you must put in the work.”
Thank you Nyambz for all your hard work. You are the soul of our organisation. And here’s to many more years to come!