On an overcast February morning, a group of refugees arrange tables and chairs to create a makeshift classroom in a Hertfordshire community centre. They have gathered, along with five volunteers, to practise their English.
After a quick greeting of ‘As-Salaam-Alaikum', their teacher announces that they will be practising the words for the body, and leads them through a cheerful rendition of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” A second group with more advanced English skills works at the back of the room with a volunteer who has brought in questions from the UK driving theory test so that they can build up vocabulary while also preparing for the practicalities of driving.
The two hour lesson involves writing, reading aloud, and practising oral expression using puzzles and games. Volunteers sit amongst the learners, helping and encouraging with each new challenge. A young toddler plays with coloured pencils and listens as his parents practice saying ‘eyes’ and ‘elbows.’
Learning language skills is a crucial part of adjusting to life in a new country; being able to communicate and advocate for oneself can open doors and help to heal trauma. HWSF has been working to create a network of volunteers who can assist resettled refugees with their English language skills throughout Hertfordshire. If you think you might be interested in volunteering, please get in touch with our new ESOL Volunteer Coordinator, Caroline Herring, e-mail: Carolineherring52@gmail.com