Migrant resource centre teaching English skills to new settlers

Bordertown has long been a culturally diverse area, with people from all around the world happy to call the town home.

With so many different languages spoken throughout the community, the Bordertown Migrant Resource Centre is teaching new settlers English language classes twice a week.

Settlement officer Bao Luo, a qualified social worker who took over the office last year, said the classes have been beneficial for migrant women, with a strong number of residents getting involved.

The centre currently have six volunteers and around 20 women, with roughly 15 people attending each class.

Mr Luo said most of the women come from Afghanistan, and each person is assigned a personalised information pack which caters to the level they're at.

Most importantly, the students enjoy the opportunity to learn the English language within the centre, however, they also get the chance to go out into the community and put their skills to practical use.

"The women go out to socialise every so often - a while ago, they went to Cafe La Vie to socialise and experience an everyday social setting," Mr Luo said.

"They have also done the same thing at the bakery."

Mr Luo said he's proud of the improvement each student has shown over the journey, and hopes the growth can continue.

"They have improved massively since I've been here - the classes have made them more confident and many of them like to ask questions," Mr Luo said.

With only two classes a week, the students are currently pushing for more in the near future, which will allow them to engage with the committed community volunteer teachers on a more regular basis.

"Our recent consultations with the women have told us how much the women are enjoying engaging with technology, socialising in their new environment and meeting new community friends who are helping them to navigate the English language and systems," Mr Luo said.

"The women have voiced their needs and the Bordertown Migrant Resource Centre will focus on trying to meet these during 2020."

The increased classes will potentially open up exciting employment pathways for the women, along with allowing them to integrate into the community quicker.

"We need more English classes - twice a week is not enough for us to learn English and get a job," one of the students said.

Mr Luo stated he wants to let the Bordertown community know the work the women are doing at the centre, and their desire to be a part of the small town.

He thanked the committed volunteers for their fantastic work, and stated they are crucial in making the program happen.

"Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the women and volunteer teachers are taking the government's advice and self-isolating for the next few weeks," Mr Luo said.

"They will use their mobiles to communicate with each other and MRC staff."