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South Wales sanctuary-seekers help give others a voice

10th Dec 2013

Sanctuary learners

Women from Cardiff, Newport and Swansea who had to leave their home countries to start a new life in Wales are learning how to teach English.

Thirteen refugee and asylum seeking women who speak English have completed a five week course run by Swansea University and Oxfam Cymru's Sanctuary in Wales project.

Now some of the women will take the Teaching Knowledge Test to become accredited. All of them will return to their communities and teach English in local community centres.  They come from countries all over the world, including Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Morocco, Nigeria, Zambia and Kenya . They are former consular assistants, office workers, custom agents, secretaries and retail grocers, now mostly unable to work until the Home Office grants them leave to do so.

All have a mission to pass on their knowledge of English because they know just how vital it is for anyone settling in the UK.

"We know English, now we are learning how to teach others and lift them up," said Sylvia .

"If you don't speak English here it is like being blind - you cannot solve the simplest problem," said Patricia.

"Even worse, you don't get to express yourself, and all your feelings are kept bottled up inside which makes people isolated and unhappy," she added.

Wahida  said the course has helped her own development. "I have gained a lot of confidence," she said.

Hayath , who is a volunteer for Newport's Sanctuary Project, is happier now she has a purpose - without work and permanent leave to remain, many refugees are stuck in a 'boundary life', she says.

"This is the second year we have offered these courses," said  Peter Neville of English Language Training Services at Swansea University, who co-ordinates the group which is tutored by  Rob Anderson and Jen Welti. "We have been amazed by the take-up and the determination of the students who have gone on to donate hundreds of hours of their time to teaching others."

Vicky Goodban manages the Sanctuary in Wales project for Oxfam Cymru. She said: " These courses are just one of the ways that we help refugee and asylum seeking women to  gain access to training and employment and be active in their communities, avoiding isolation and poverty."

Oxfam and Business in the Community would like to extend special thanks to Eversheds LLP for their support in hosting half of the course.

Sanctuary in Wales is run in partnership with Business in the Community and supported by the Big Lottery Fund Wales.