The door swings open as one of the refugee families resettled in the Guildford area enters the ‘Conversation Café’, waving goodbye to the kind volunteer who has brought them to the English language teaching session.
As the two young children go to play with their English friends and other kids in the playgroup, their parents greet the team of volunteers and the other native Arabic speakers. They get themselves a drink and biscuits, practicing their English all the while: ‘Would you like a drink? Milk? Sugar?’
Today’s lesson is about bikes and bike safety. Over tea and coffee, the learners cut out and stick in pictures of bike parts, chatting as they do. Much valuable conversation takes place in this relaxed and comfortable atmosphere – friends are made, cultures shared and language learned. An Arabic speaking volunteer is on hand to iron out any difficulties and help us share experiences and cultures together.
The Thursday class is the last language session in the week – Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays provide more formal language teaching, but Thursday is a day to relax and chat. At other sessions we have tossed pancakes and run races, arranged flowers, played board games and planted seeds; a potter has shared her skills and, in a few weeks’ time, we will learn some basic first aid.
For refugees, learning English really is the key to successful resettlement in a new land – it allows meaningful integration into communities and opens doors in terms of employment and education.
If you can offer to help at any of the language sessions, we would be delighted to talk to you about the many various voluntary roles there are: teaching, supporting, childcare, transporting, interpreting. Please contact the diocesan refugee support advisor, Diane Peters: firstname.lastname@example.org
It is a great privilege and you will learn far more than you ever teach.
For more information about how you can to respond to the current refugee crisis, see the resources page