Local church celebrates ESOL learning in the Darlaston community
All Saints Church in Darlaston has celebrated its second cohort of ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) ‘graduates’ despite being forced to suspend learning for almost six months due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
The ESOL Language & Culture Club, funded by Walsall for All, has been running at All Saints since April 2019. The church is situated in the heart of the community and has become a key community hub and location for activities, where people from different backgrounds and with different life experiences can meet outside of workplaces, schools and homes. With no other ESOL provision being offered nearby, and thanks to their existing connections with the community, the church has been able to draw in a number of learners from varying backgrounds. So far, 39 out of 42 participants have completed the programme (two left the country and one left the programme due to personal circumstances).
Sessions are more than just English language classes as Reverend Gilbert David, Vicar of All Saints Darlaston and coordinator of projects including the Language & Culture Club, explained: “We, as a church, have decided to build strong ties with our local community and the parishioners. We open the church doors on Sundays for public worship, but we also offer our church hall for the benefit of those who need it. In the Darlaston and Moxley parishes 50% of residents are migrants from as far away as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China, Europe and Africa – many of whom need some help with basic English language skills; support with signposting to access services such as health, training, jobs, computer skills; and understanding of local traditions and customs so that they can better develop relationships with their neighbours.”
“By providing a number of diverse learning activities as a church, we are fulfilling our duty by bringing communities together and educating them so that they learn about each other’s cultures and values and in doing so increasing love, harmony, trust and respect amongst each other.”
“As the Vicar of All Saints Church, I thank the ESOL Team, Walsall Council, Walsall for All and the project staff for their continuous support to achieving our goals.”
Mohammed Saleem, Project Facilitator and ESOL Tutor, grew up in Darlaston and understands its communities well. Having initially been involved in the successful delivery of short courses as part of the ‘Valued Communities (Active Citizens Fund)’, he encouraged the All Saints Church team to apply for further funding and expand the activities on offer to help diverse communities, particularly those who may be disadvantaged. Mohammed said: “In all the years I have helped community and voluntary groups, I have discovered that helping others to learn and do things for themselves, for them to progress and achieve, makes me proud and happy. Getting involved in projects such as the Language & Culture Club is a great way to do just that - and make a real difference in people’s lives.“
Mr Balbir Singh, a recent graduate from the programme, highlighted the value of the classes and the difference they have made to him and his wife: “Thanks to the friendly and helpful tutors, I found the computer classes as part of ESOL easier than I thought I would. Mixing and making friends with other people from different backgrounds has made it a truly enjoyable experience. I knew very little about computers before coming here - my children would have had to help, but now I’m able to do things by myself and I’m able to help my wife use the internet.”
“This was a wonderful experience, for me and my wife, and it has especially helped me to become more confident in myself. I would be more than happy to repeat the learning all over again!”
If you, or someone you know, would like more information or to take part in ESOL classes, please contact the ESOL Intelligence Team:
Harjinder Lal - Harjinder.Lal@walsall.gov.uk
Zishaan Mohammed - Zishaan.Mohammed@walsall.gov.uk
Natalia Balan - Natalia.Balan@walsall.gov.uk
You can also visit www.walsallforall.co.uk/esol to see where your nearest classes are located.