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Royal Holloway students volunteer their time to teach English to local Syrian families

Royal Holloway students volunteer their time to teach English to local Syrian families

  • Date22 March 2021

ESOL Tutoring is a volunteering initiative led by students at Royal Holloway that has been running at the university for 15 years. The student volunteering team teach the English language to local Syrian families, as part of a resettlement scheme and due to Covid-19 restrictions, ESOL has had to adapt to running their classes online.

ESOL Tutoring student leaders

ESOL Tutoring student leaders - photo taken before Covid-19 restrictions put in place

As the longest-running volunteer project at Royal Holloway, the initiative is run by four student leaders, with the help of student volunteers, with approximately 90 students volunteering in 2020/21.

The group currently works with four families in the local community, supporting them to integrate within British society by providing additional language-learning opportunities, alongside classes taken by the families at a local college.

Anna-Maria, ESOL Tutoring project team leader and student at Royal Holloway, said: “It has been incredibly rewarding to see how much they have all improved their levels of English after months of lessons.

“For example, one of the family members was able to achieve a NCFE Entry-Level 3 qualification recently and she told us that the lessons helped her a lot.”

Due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions throughout 2020 and 2021, ESOL Tutoring has had to adapt how it runs the classes. During the November 2020 lockdown, the student volunteers were still able to hold in-person lessons at the nearby Village Centre in Englefield Green, based on the UK Governments guidance. The lessons were socially-distanced, limited to six to eight people – including the volunteers – with everyone wearing masks whilst inside. The project have since moved ESOL Tutoring online and teach the local families via MS Teams to ensure everyone’s safety and allows more people to attend.

Anna-Maria, continued: “ESOL Tutoring provides a great way to do something productive and rewarding with my free time, whilst helping the local community thrive.

“Volunteering has been immensely helpful for my own mental health throughout the Covid-19 pandemic as I felt I was getting something done when everything was shut down and people were being told to stay at home.”

Phil Simcock, Volunteering Manager at Royal Holloway, said: “Our social action initiatives have found creative ways to adapt their projects during the pandemic, and ESOL Tutoring student leaders have been a great example of this. Whether that’s been making use of alternative Covid-secure premises or digital technology to teach English to those who need to learn.”

For more information on Royal Holloway volunteering, click here.

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