I’ve decided to focus this week’s blog on our English Support, especially our “Conversation Cafes”. I lead four Cafes around the city, trying to offer a safe space for people who speak English as a Second Language to practice their English with a native speaker. These have proven to be really helpful, as many newly-arrived individuals lack confidence in their English and are anxious that they won’t be understood/won’t be able to understand the other person – some then retreat into their shells. By offering a safe space to practice, I’ve found people much more willing to “give it a go”, and subsequently both improve their English and grow in confidence.
The other major benefit of these Cafes is that they offer great ways to start building relationships. One great friendship that I’ve struck-up through these has been with a 17 year old Eritrean asylum seeker called Awet. He arrived in the UK from “The Jungle” in Calais in October 2016, having made the dangerous journey to Europe to escape mandatory national service in his own country (more info on Eritrean conscription can be found here).
I met him in late-March through an English Cafe, and told him about the other Cafes that are happening around the city. He started regularly attending one near his home, and he and I have subsequently developed a really strong friendship. He told me that, as an asylum seeker, he’s not allowed to work, and that because he lives on the outskirts of the city he found himself spending most of his days alone at home. He’s made friends through his church, but most of these live on the other side of Coventry – asylum seekers only receive £36.95 a week (to cover food, travel etc), so a £4.00 daily bus fare is a huge cost.
Awet told me that he wants to work in a warehouse once he gets his Leave to Remain, so I contacted the large Foodbank Warehouse in Binley to ask if Awet could volunteer with them. They were delighted, and so for the past 6 weeks Awet has been helping at the Foodbank – he either helps in the warehouse to process donations, or goes out in the van with another volunteer to drop-off supplies to the smaller Foodbanks around the city. Awet says that he’s absolutely loved his time with the Foodbank, as it’s given him something productive to spend his time doing, offers him the chance to practice speaking English with the other volunteers, and looks great on his CV. The Foodbank themselves are also delighted with Awet, and say he’s been a brilliant volunteer and committed volunteer for them – a real win-win!
He has grown in confidence an awful lot, and last week even stood at the front of a Christian Aid fundraiser and shared his story! None of this would have happened had we not met at the Cafe. In Awet’s own words: “Thank you very much Matty – I’m much happier now, and have many more things to do in my life since meeting you.”
- That we will be able to support our Muslim friends during Ramadan, and have the chance to share about our faith;
- That there will not be any inter-communal tensions following the horrific events in Manchester earlier this week
Awet playing the piano at one of our Conversation Cafes