Our inspiration is summed up by Elvia Alvarado, a Honduran woman working with local communities to secure their rights to land, food, education and health care:
RISC has an education team who work with teachers and schools to promote Global Citizenship in the curriculum. Their work ranges from training courses to RISC's own publications and more.
RISC is home to one of the UK's largest Fair Trade shops. A member of BAFTS (British Association of Fair Trade Shops), it raises awareness of fair trade through the products it sells as well as encouraging the use of eco friendly household products. A large section of the shop is devoted to a resource centre selling teaching packs on global citizenship, and non-fiction on various global issues, as well as fiction from majority world authors, and a large selection of children's books further promoting global citizenship at an early age.
The Global Cafe is a fully licensed venue providing daytime and evening drinks to Reading using fairly traded and local products where possible. Live music and events often take place in the cafe. The cafe is also home to Tutu's Ethiopian Table who provides food in the cafe from lunchtime through to the evening.
RISC also works on various other projects with a focus on sustainable development and food security. This work begins on our edible roof garden and continues with projects that work with local community groups and schools.
Various events take place in RISC on a wide range of subjects and formats, all with the aim to raise awareness and understanding of development education issues.
RISC provides many work opportunities to volunteers coming from a wide background. Volunteers are at the foundation of RISC, without their work we simply could not function as we do.
RISC houses several function rooms including a large conference hall, available for the public to hire.
Reading International Solidarity Centre started life as World Education Berkshire, an educational charity set up by Ann Yarwood in 1981. A double-decker bus, colourfully painted with the slogan ‘Think Globally – Act Locally’, toured schools and community groups from its base at Burnham.
By 1987 it had become clear that WEB needed to have a higher profile in order to be more effective. The charity decided to find a place of its own, and rented 103 London Street naming it Reading International Support Centre. The centre activities increased and the building soon outgrew the needs of the charity, with its small fair trade shop, tiny offices and a small meeting room.
RISC needed to move to larger premises, and the organisation turned its attention to the seemingly impossible task of buying the old London Street Bookshop, which had lain empty for 6 years. We embarked on an incredible journey of hard work, setbacks and crisis. However, with the unselfish help of Michael Duerden, a banker who produced our business plan & helped us get over the first hurdle: getting a loan to buy the building and funds to do it up. By July 1995 we finally celebrated receiving the loan from the ethical bank Mercury (now Triodos).
The old London Street bookshop was owned by Blackwells and we found their agent Mr Thomas of Bristol, who had other interested buyers lined up. However by October 1995, we had managed, as Martin put it, to ‘crack the deal’. Again with help of Mike McCrae a community architect, the active support of Reading Borough Council and the Co-op Home Services, who took a 999-year lease on the three flats above the café, it was finally possible to start the renovation.
It was a Herculean task to restore the building, all 15,000 square feet of it. It was gruelling work – twelve hour days, seven days a week. The spring and summer was bright and sunny and we have fond memories of sitting in the sun, covered in dust and grime, having tea and lunch perched on planks of wood. With professionals guidance and help from enthusiastic young people from as far a field as Turkey, Spain, Russia and Lithuania on IVS work camps, plus over 200 local volunteers we managed to finish the work 18 months later.
Against the odds, RISC (renamed Reading International Solidarity Centre) moved into the premises on 16 September 1996 and opened the World Shop. On 19 October that year the leased Pangaea Café opened for business – two years later RISC opened it as the Global Cafe. The Conference room, three meeting rooms and seven offices were completed over the next few months. It now houses Reading Refugee Support Group, RVA, One World Week, Southern Ethiopia People’s Action Group and confidential help lines.
RISC has further developed since then including planting a permaculture roof garden in 2002, which adds to the spectrum of our educational activities and is the inspiration for some exciting local, national and international projects. The Centre is well established and has become an important part of Reading’s rich cultural, campaigning and educational life.
RISC is funded by the following organisations: