The first project we started at the community centre was English Language Classes. If we had been choosing out first project we probably wouldn’t have started with this. We aren’t really comfortable with the idea, that we should go into countries and impose our language on them! But how we want H4C to operate and love communities, is by being really good at listening to the community and bringing hope by meeting the needs that they identify. This community has seen many wars and disasters that are followed by a wave of new refugees and internally displaced people moving into the area. As organsations and charities come in to help, those established in the community that can speak English are employed as translators and to work with the organsations. So learning English is seen as a great opportunity for potential employment, in a community where employment is so limited. Also as English is one of the subjects children are examined on at school, academic success is another potential way to attempt to escape a future of unemployment and poverty.
Most of the people coming to our English classes are children. This is a reflection of the fact that in this age group there is still some hope. As people reach adulthood they have often sadly become complacent to the possibility of a brighter and better future. We see these children’s attendance at the lessons as being an opportunity for so much more than just teaching them English. This may be the only time that many of these children get to sing, dance and play in this type of setting. It took them quite a while to get used to the fact that an adult was happy to look silly jumping around and singing with them, and now they love it. Also with a few simple donations of basic art materials the children were able to have so much fun drawing pictures. We found it really surprising that even the older boys who normally wanted to act cool were so encouraged by all the positive praise they received for their pictures that they kept excitedly running back and drawing more things to show us.
The opportunity to have fun with these children is brilliant. But we recently discovered that is has also been beneficial for their language acquisition as well. We visited the local school that the children attend for a few hours each day to try and plan our timetables around their school timetable. The teachers were really positive about the classes and said they had noticed that all the children coming to our classes were doing really well in English. We reflected on this, and initially were surprised. In our younger classes we feel like we aren’t really teaching them that much as we are mostly singing and playing games!! But we realized that what we are doing is constantly telling them how well they are doing and how amazing they are (which will be the first time some of these children will have had such affirmation). It is this building up of self esteem that we think is responsible for this noticed improvement.