Pandemic won't stop Bordertown's newest settlers from improving their English skills

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 has long been teaching new settlers English language classes - despite the current pandemic.

The program is made up of mostly women from Afghanistan, and each person is assigned a personalised information pack which caters to the level they're at.

Settlement officer Bao Luo, a qualified social worker who took over the office last year, said while the students were unable to physically attend lessons, they took advantage of the technology at their disposal.

Mr Luo stated for around one-and-a-half months, students were forced to complete their English lessons via the phone, but fortunately for them, things are slowly starting to return back to normal.

"Due to the restrictions, we started with only bringing a few back to do some craft work for about an hour," Mr Luo said.

He also stated the centre was eager to bring students back safely, so they could experience increased social interaction.

While they are now able to start bringing people back for lessons, the centre has had to adapt to social distancing restrictions, making sure each student is safely spaced.

Mr Luo said their 60 square metre outdoor area allowed for them to cater for around 15 students, but further relaxing of restrictions has now meant more students can attend the lessons.

The addition of a new Afghani volunteer has also made a massive impact on the current students, with her good English skills allowing her to translate and interpret for the others.

"We have tried to fit the students safely into one room so the volunteer can translate for others," Mr Luo said.

Mr Luo stated that while the phone lessons were successful, nothing compares to the impact of having face-to-face contact.

"We comply with the restrictions and try to get people back so they can socialise while they attempt to learn English," Mr Luo said.

Unfortunately, the students are still unable to venture from the centre to partake in practical sessions at a local cafe or bakery due to social distancing restrictions.

The enjoyment of the lessons has resulted in students pushing for more classes in the near future, which will eventually allow them to engage with the committed community volunteer teachers on a more regular basis.

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

Earlier this year, one student stated she would love more English classes in the future, as the current number isn't enough.

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