About the project

The project:

  • helps refugees and asylum seekers to gain the English language and computer literacy skills they need to access mainstream education and jobs and integrate into their new communities.
  • allows students at the University of Kent to gain language teaching and volunteering experience, which will increase their employability and internationalization.

This project was initiated by Dr Gloria Chamorro in 2016. Our young refugees, who are between 14 and 17 years old, come from a range of backgrounds, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Syria and Sudan, and they have recently arrived in the country unaccompanied by adults. Many of them have had limited or no access to education because of conflict or because of the community they come from.

The project involves undergraduate and postgraduate students teaching English to young refugees at the University. The students work very closely with the refugees using printed and online materials, which also allows them to develop computer literacy skills, as some of them have not used a computer before or do not have access to a computer at home. Developing English language and computer literacy skills are key for the refugees to be able to access mainstream education, work, and integrate into the community. Many of the young refugees who started the project in 2016 are currently attending college or working.

We also develop language learning resources to teach English to refugees and migrants, which are freely available in our Materials section, and give talks at schools and other institutions to raise awareness about the situation and needs of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK.

We now also offer English classes for adult refugees and migrants.

Testimonials

The following testimonials reveal how the project helps the young refugees to improve their English language and computer literacy skills, raise their confidence and aspirations and integrate into the community:

– “The students absolutely love coming here. Most of them have never been to university before, never considered that they would visit any university, so I think it’s really helped to raise their educational aspirations and made them think about what is possible.” (Jessica Maddocks, Communications and Development Manager at KRAN)

– “We are very appreciative of the work that the University currently does with our young people. They have been able to access a good quality ESOL computer course at UKC since November 2016. The young people do not possess computers in their own homes and have limited access to computers outside the provision that the university has offered. The provision supports them greatly with their English and also their computer skills. Indeed, when many of them started the course, they were unable to use a mouse but they have now become adept at navigating their way around a computer. The young people thoroughly enjoy attending UKC. It is enabling them to practise their English with volunteers from the university and thus increase their confidence in speaking.  Furthermore, the young people are learning about the opportunities that are offered by higher education establishments and thus the importance of education. They also are finding out about the local community and making new friends. This supports their integration in the community.” (Anne Hardy, Learning for Life Programme Lead at KRAN)

– “The students speak extremely favourably of the project and we have seen an increase in confidence and motivation amongst some of the hardest young people to reach as result of the work done by the university. Having the opportunity to develop not only their English language skills but also their computer literacy will have a huge impact on their ability to transition successfully into mainstream education.” (Anne Hardy, Learning for Life Programme Lead at KRAN, on behalf of the young refugees attending the project)

– “I loved working with the teachers at Kent University because they are so friendly and happy and helpful. It was good to have female teachers because we don’t have this in my country. The computer program really helped me with my reading and writing. I am doing well at college because I had this extra support. Thank you for helping us!” (AS, young refugee student from Afghanistan)

The following statements from the university students involved in the project also reveal how it has helped them to develop personally and professionally:

“It is a pleasure to have the privilege of volunteering for the English Hub for Refugees. Gloria is running an amazing project and it is a perfect partnership between UKC’s SECL department and the local charity KRAN. This opportunity is one of the most enjoyable, useful and enriching experiences during my time studying my undergraduate degree. I am thankful to have been able to practice and improve language teaching skills for my own benefit, but have been equally glad for the chance to get to know the young people from KRAN and provide them with the help they need to learn the English language, which is essential for their immersion into British society. It was incredible to witness their gratitude, their dedication to learning, and their motivation to use this skill to obtain opportunities and create a meaningful life for themselves. Thank you to Gloria, KRAN and the wonderful young people who attend these English language classes.” (Alannah Penfold, undergraduate student)

– “Teaching on this project is a great opportunity to offer skills and knowledge to those who will really benefit and to make a real difference to a person’s language ability and their personal experience in the UK. A friendly, supportive and sensitive environment has made working with this group a really enjoyable and rewarding experience both for the refugees and the teachers.” (Luke Allder, postgraduate student)

– “I had always wanted to be part of a project like this, but I had never found the opportunity. I am really happy that I decided to join the ESOL classes because there is a mutual exchange. While we work on English together, the students have taught me about their cultures, their languages and their backgrounds. It is a very enriching experience and I would strongly recommend anyone interested to join!” (Inés Pérez González, undergraduate Erasmus student)

– “This project has been a unique opportunity for me to feel like I’m making a difference, and get some teaching practice. I am impressed by how motivated and hard-working the students are. Everyone is smiling and happy to be there. We’ve built fantastic rapport considering we don’t have any language in common. It’s also been a great intercultural experience for both the volunteers and the students.” (Ariane Spinosa, undergraduate student)

– “The project has helped develop me as a person and given me the opportunity to interact with people I would not normally have interacted with. The students look forward to the classes and are improving their English. I really enjoy teaching too as it gives me some practice and lets me gain more experience in the field as well.” (Linnéa Björk Belmonte, undergraduate student)

– “I joined the volunteering project because of my interest in teaching, but each week these lessons become a moment for making friends and learning new principles, new cultures, respect… Something that I will definitely miss when I leave Kent.” (Rebeca Teijeiro Suárez, undergraduate Erasmus student)

– “The ESOL for Refugees project has given me a great opportunity to practice my teaching skills and at the same time help people in a difficult situation. I believe that the interactions we have are essential for their learning as the virtual environment does not give them the chance to practice speaking or ask any questions. Although challenging at times, I believe this is a great way for aspiring teachers to spot difficulties which students encounter while learning English and come up with practical solutions for breaking the language barrier.” (Alexandra Nadasan, undergraduate student)

The following feedback from a school talk reveals how the project helps to raise awareness about the situation and needs of refugees and asylum seekers:

– “The session by Gloria with our Year 5 and 6 pupils and teachers was thought-provoking, interesting and engaging and children and adults alike enjoyed the competitive quiz element to learning facts about refugees and asylum seekers (across the UK and beyond). The well chosen images and geographical facts shared with our pupils allowed them to explore and learn about the journeys many refugees take and highlighted the turmoil and upheaval that a large number of individuals and families go through, especially unaccompanied refugee minors. Gloria provided a range of maps and resources which fully supported her session and the children enjoyed completing. The session was carefully matched to the age and abilities of our pupils and many children kept asking more questions after the workshop.” (Gilly Linnane, Assistant Headteacher at Valley Invicta Primary School at Kings Hill)