Essex Community Foundation funds free English language classes
David Utley-Williams, ,
A grant of £8,000 has given a vital boost to a project that helps women who do not have English as their first language to integrate into their communities.
The grant has been given by the independent charitable trust Essex Community Foundation (ECF) so that free drop-in English language sessions, run entirely by volunteers, can continue to run three times a week.
The cross-cultural group ‘English for Women’, meets at the Chelmsford YMCA, and has classes to suit all abilities, including a beginners’ group for those who speak very little to no English. Volunteers also offer a supervised play area for children, so that the women can focus on learning. The project first began in 2015 to help three women from Afghanistan. It now teaches over 100 women from more than 30 nationalities. Most members are from Chelmsford, but some travel from Witham, Brentwood, Billericay, Maldon and Braintree to take part.
One woman who has benefitted from the group sessions said: “I have learnt a lot of new words and that has given me more confidence. I also learnt a lot about British culture, history and law.
“I had a problem with my health and thanks to this class, I was able to explain what my problem was to my doctor”.
Susannah Owen, leader of the project, said: “Over the last few years I have seen these classes help so many women to improve their English and forge invaluable friendships.
“Learning to speak English not only helps the women to feel more confident, it also makes a considerable impact on their families’ lives, helping them to integrate with the local community and be less isolated.
“Having the ability to have simple, yet important conversations with their children’s teachers and doctors is hugely empowering. Everyone should be able to participate in their community and access local services free of concern that they won’t be understood.”
English for Women welcomes all women of any culture, religion or nationality. The sessions run on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday mornings during school term-time.