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Pat on the Back

Author and presenter Patrick Jackson looks at the altruistic side of ELT.

December 20, 2013

A Celebration of Light: Lara’s Foundation


This morning in Ireland at a 5,000 year old Neolithic structure now called Newgrange, built on a hill overlooking the Boyne Valley, some cold and wet people will gather to welcome the sun. At 08:43, if they are lucky, our nearest star’s light will pass down the narrow passage that leads to the chamber at the very centre of the huge mound. The light enters the passage at the very darkest time of year, heralding a day that is only just over 7 hours long. It’s about continuity, hope and life beyond death. It’s about making sense of our time in this world - and celebrating.

Lara Jones shone brightly. She lived her life with a smile on her face. By the time she was 26 years old she had achieved a great deal. She skied, sang, played music and spoke Spanish and Portuguese. She had also travelled widely, to Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, and Chile. Like many people who love travel, learning, people and fun, Lara was an EFL teacher. She is described as having a warm, fun teaching style. She was somebody who was giving so much and had so much more to offer this world.

Lara sought out sunny places and in March, 2012 was on holiday in Havana, Cuba. It was there that she became the victim of an apparently motiveless crime, dying at the hands of a hostel security guard who has never explained his actions and is now facing 22 years in prison after a secret confession and trial. It should be mentioned that this sort of crime is unheard of in Cuba and that Lara was an extremely cautious traveller.

Rather than succumb to the despair and darkness that accompany such devastating loss, the response of Lara’s family and friends has been such as to ensure that Lara’s light will shine on. In celebration of and with a view to continuing her teaching work, a foundation has been created in her name. Lara’s Foundation is dedicated to supporting EFL projects in under-resourced communities around the world, seeking to bring key individuals (such as teachers) to the UK and provide them with English language tuition. The Foundation also enables UK-based language teachers to travel to these communities to provide support and teach English there.

Please visit the foundation’s website and Facebook page to find out more about their work and how you can help. Donations are welcome and particularly appropriate at this time of year from anybody involved in English language teaching.

All of our lives are hot sparks from a great fire, floating up into the darkness to join the stars. All we can really do is join hands with our Neolithic forefathers to face and celebrate the light and its continuity. In the face of a devastating tragedy, but also in our everyday life, that is all we can - and must do.

Lara's Foundation: website, Twitter and Facebook.

Over the past few months, this column has celebrated the work of people and organisations in the English Language teaching world that inspire us all by building awareness, and working hard on the ground to make this world a better place. It’s been a pleasure finding out about their work and learning how all of them share the common aim of shining light into the darkness. Whatever this time of year means to you (and apologies to my friends in the Southern hemisphere) may the lengthening days bring health, happiness, warmth and good work to English teachers everywhere.

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