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English language school for migrants and refugees in Ipswich establishes as charity

PUBLISHED: 15:00 25 October 2016

Burlington Road, Ipswich. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Burlington Road, Ipswich. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Volunteer teachers are working to transform the lives of migrants and refugees in the most deprived areas of Ipswich as part of a newly established charity.

The Oasis English Language Centre runs classes once a week from its base in Burlington Road to help non-UK nationals gain the language and social skills needed to integrate in their community.

The language school was set up 13 years ago by The Ipswich International Church but this year it has been registered as an independent charity, making it eligible to apply for more grant funding.

Rod Cook, chairman of trustees, said: “We would like to see people to their own benefit and to the good of our society in Ipswich integrating, which you need the language to be able to do that.

“We know that if they have better English they will be better able to deal with the health services, their family matters and their own development.

“It’s all part of self-development, to do what they want to do in the future, whether that’s just being better for their families or whether they want a job.”

The majority of students at the Oasis Centre live in the nearby wards of Gipping and Westgate, which are two of the most deprived areas of the town.

Mr Cook said the last census showed that 20% of the residents in Westgate and 10% of residents in Gipping could not speak English.

Pupils can take part in a course of 10 lessons for just £15 - only possible because the teachers are all volunteers. Learners are also able to have a free lunch provided by charity, Breaking Barriers.

“These people wouldn’t be able to learn English otherwise because they can’t afford the rates of commercial schools,” Mr Cook said.

Ipswich Borough Council’s South West Committee last month awarded the language school funding for teachers to undergo training on the religions, the asylum seeker process, and key festivals celebrated by their students, such as Ramadan.

The money will also be used for a party in the last week of the autumn term for students to learn about Christmas as a significant cultural event in the UK.

The founder of the Oasis Centre Maureen Huntly retired in June and a new director, Linda Pepper, started in September.

For more information about donating or volunteering, visit: www.oasisenglish.org.uk

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