Vera Group ESOL success - Olga's story
About the Vera Group
The Vera Group brings together women from different European countries, empowering them to live full and meaningful lives; promoting women's self-esteem, positivity and self-confidence and offering non-judgmental support, advocacy and empowerment.
They want each woman to recognise the amazing ability, courage, strength and potential she has, and to feel empowered to reach their fullest potential and shape their own destiny.
Their motto is: “We are AMAZING, we are COURAGEOUS, we are UNIQUE. We are WOMEN of Europe travelling towards success.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, all ESOL provision has taken place online. This has been successful, offering convenience for learners to participate in the comfort of their own homes.
The Vera Group recently delivered online ESOL sessions for women and have shared two success stories with us. Below is Olga's story.
Olga and her family moved to England in September 2020 from Moldova. Unfortunately, she and her husband did not study English in school, therefore their knowledge of the language was very basic. Considering this aspect they went through a very difficult period of adaptation and also had to face numerous challenges, such as lack of socialisation, language barriers, isolation and difficulties in accessing local services. When they first came to England, they struggled with applying for a place at school for their children, registering with a GP, opening a bank account and applying for the EU Settlement Scheme. Simple things such as having a conversation was difficult and stressful for them. As a result, they did not make many friends and hardly communicated with people outside of their native language.
Olga and her husband decided that it would be beneficial to gain a more complex knowledge of the language so that their everyday lives would be easier. Olga was always active on Facebook, but one day she was invited to join the Vera Group, where she found out about ESOL sessions. She was very excited about this opportunity especially considering that the tutor was a Russian-speaking woman. Olga also encouraged her husband to attend the session so they both could learn and practice together. They attended 24 English lessons over 12 weeks. In these lessons, they learnt about English vocabulary, grammar and punctuation, which helped them to be more comfortable when speaking in English. Olga also mentioned that she very much enjoyed the fact that lessons were not only focused on the writing, reading and listening aspects but also discussions around day-to-day activities, which was very beneficial for them as a newly arrived to UK family.
She learnt a lot about local services and the local area, such as support and activities available for families and children, volunteering opportunities and achieving a qualification.
Olga shared: “These sessions had a huge positive impact on my mental health. Considering that we were going through a COVID pandemic, children were not attending the school and we didn’t have the opportunity to socialise with anyone, I was always looking for the sessions where the atmosphere was very friendly and supportive.”
Due to the current circumstances, all sessions are delivered online, but nevertheless extremely beneficial for Olga and her husband. Olga is now able to pick up phone calls from her children’s school without fear or stress. In addition, she can now confidently write letters to the school by herself. As well as that, her husband feels more self-assured when talking to his colleagues at work and when generally communicating with others. Olga is very proud that now she goes to the Post Office, bank or any other place without feeling very anxious or having to ask for support.
Here is what Olga said about the lessons:
“This project gave us a chance to develop a better understanding of the language without even leaving our house. The lessons have a very comfortable format and theory is taken into consideration, as well as practical ways of learning. I really liked the fact that I had the opportunity to find out more about the area where we live; the services available and other important aspects that made me feel welcomed and part of the community. I am very pleased as this project helped me a lot in my everyday life, improved my wellbeing and increased the motivation to achieve my goals. We are very thankful for this amazing opportunity and would gladly continue learning.”
If you would like to find out more about ESOL classes and how to join, visit www.walsallforall.co.uk/esol or contact the ESOL Intelligence Unit:
Harjinder Lal (ESOL Coordinator) - Harjinder.Lal@walsall.gov.uk
Languages spoken: English, Hindi and Punjabi
Zishaan Mohammed (ESOL Project Officer) - Zishaan.Mohammed@walsall.gov.uk
Languages spoken: English
Natalia Balan (ESOL Project Officer) - Natalia.Balan@walsall.gov.uk
Languages spoken: English, Romanian and Russian