More than an English course
For many refugees and destitute migrants, ESOL classes are not only crucial to learning English, but they also function as a lifeline for social integration and access to additional crisis support.
‘Each class has contributed positively to improve all aspects of my English language learning…I have shared lovely moments with my classmates who are from different countries and with respective different cultures, as well as with my terrific teacher…I love coming here to learn English, because it is more than an English course, it is a meeting of friends…It’s incredible!!’ (Sandra, Peru)
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our students faced difficulties navigating a new culture and complex systems of asylum support. Now, more than ever, they need a platform to make sense of a rapidly changing and unpredictable world. An environment that was once hostile for many, is now confusing and challenging for all. Social isolation measures will have a disproportionately harsh impact on an already marginalised and vulnerable group. Now more than ever, our students need ESOL to be more than an English class.
Our mission to restore dignity and create community means that we want to empower our students to keep learning and create a safe space where they can keep talking. ESOL online forms part of our newly commissioned Let’s Talk programme – a charity-wide strategy to reduce social isolation and improve social cohesion during the COVID-19 crisis.
During this season, we are committed to adapting and continuing our vital ESOL classes to ensure that we can support as many students as possible. Our ESOL teachers are currently running Zoom video classes on weekdays for refugees and asylum seekers. The classes will include content aimed at assisting students to understand the language and issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Our services are seeking new ways to create community through hosting a series of discussion and support groups aimed at reducing the impact of social isolation during the pandemic. Building on the success of the Community Feast in London, we are continuing to provide a platform for communities to discuss and learn good practice about coping mentally and emotionally during social isolation. Over the past 4 years, we have engaged with 150 volunteers from the local community through our lunch events for the homeless and ‘Understanding Homelessness’ training sessions. The Alone Together project also aims to facilitate innovation as it explores themes of how to create community and serve the homeless in new and challenging contexts.