UKRAINIAN refugees in Stratford are being offered a helping hand learning English on their road back to independence.
The refugees have been signed up to an English speaking course at Stratford College as part of a package of help from community group “Welcome Here” who have been helping them settle in the area.
The college’s ESOL – English to Speakers of Other Languages – course has proved a great help to Ukrainians who have been welcomed into the homes of people in the town but have been struggling with the language.
It is hoped that removing the language barrier will help them integrate into the community better and also assist them when finding work.
And the course has been so successful so far, there is now a waiting list.
Maryna Windsor, who works with Welcome Here, said she found that many of the refugees struggled speaking English and contacted the college when she realised the language help offered online wasn’t enough.
She explained: “It soon became apparent that the online classes available were not sufficient for people wanting to settle into employment and other areas quickly. After hearing about other courses at Stratford College, I decided to enquire.
“Everybody seems to be enjoying it and is keen to learn. The class is full and the teacher is absolutely wonderful and really puts so much effort into the lessons.
“I believe that with such a large influx of refugees, it’s vital each community does their bit to help. It is obviously not an easy thing to move suddenly far away from home and familiar circumstances and much support, physically and psychologically is required especially in the first few weeks.
“However Ukrainians are not great receivers of ‘charity’ and will soon become self-sufficient and gain their own independence. Many I’m sure will want to go back and rebuild Ukraine after the war. But in the meantime, it is amazing to see the community come together and help those fleeing war.”
Alex Blewer, English Programme Manager at Stratford College, continued: “There are a lot of people coming over who have left good jobs and due to the English language barrier they are either not working here or are working in jobs not utilising their specialist skills.
“The college wants to support the improvement of their English in speaking and listening and reading and writing. We are currently offering a short programme which focuses on developing their learning following a teaching plan whilst also providing a community hub allowing a chance to socialise.”
One of the participants, Olena Pancheko, said: “I am trying to settle in Britain, to live here, so I needed to have some integration. We need to learn English so we have better work opportunities than we currently have and learning the language better will help with this.
“We like learning about integration things like job centre, health system and how to apply for documents for work. It has been very useful to learn grammar and spelling. It has been really nice for us.”