As published in the Naracoorte Herald.
Written by Amy Maynard.
Photo: A student works with volunteers.
English classes for new locals in the community have been held at the Migrant Resource Centre for the past year, and it’s been a wonderful experience for both the students and the volunteers.
According to volunteer Gini Tidy, most of the students are Afghani and from the Hazara community, however they have also had some Thai and Chinese students.
The classes originally focused on conversational English, however the students soon wanted to learn more literacy.
“They want to read and write as many of them have children that go to school here, and they want to blend into society,” said Gini.
The students have been learning through activities with volunteers, and they have been showing an incredible amount of enthusiasm, as well as a growing confidence.
This confidence extends to outside of the classroom, explains volunteer Venita Bator, as the women are becoming more relaxed around the community.
“They are beginning to know more people, and we (the volunteers) make a point to always stop and say hello and have a conversation if we see them out shopping.”
The volunteers and students have been out on picnics, and in the class, everyone is encouraged to share news.
“We’re always laughing and joking, everyone has fun,” said volunteer Jo Love.
For Venita, volunteering at the MRC is a way of “giving back” – her husband emigrated to Australia from Germany, and she is grateful for all of the assistance that his mother-in-law received.
“We put ourselves in their shoes,” explains volunteer Heather Edwards.
“How would we feel if we went to a country where we didn’t know the languages, the customs, the food?”
Assisting the volunteers has been Sima Muhammadi, who was the Young Citizen of the Year at the Naracoorte 2018 Australia Day Awards.
“It wouldn’t be the same without Sima,” said Gini, about all of the work that Sima does in bridging the language gap between the students and volunteers.
For many years Sima has been working as a volunteer interpreter in the community.
She also does important work at the Kincraig Medical Clinic.
The classes are a welcoming space for children, with some of the women bringing along their young families to play in an area set up with mats and toys.
All the volunteers and the students sit side by side on a long table, with plenty of paper, pencils, and a whiteboard.
Last year the classes were the recipient of a Stand Like Stone Foundation grant in Round 21.
The grant was for $3000, and according to Gini, this has meant so much as it has allowed the classes to continue, which does so much for all involved.