Refugees seek out English skills more than any other type of learning. English connects people with the world, benefits refugees in the case of resettlement, and potentially opens up opportunities for employment.
CRP has been offering English classes since 2012, with 330 students currently enrolled. A year ago, CRP introduced a new program called eLearning, where beneficiaries come to the center to Skype with partners from abroad, often from the US, Canada, Australia, or Europe. “The idea is to set up beneficiaries with language partners so they can improve their language skills and also foster friendships and cultural understanding between the two,” says Megan, CRP’s TEFL coordinator. There is no given curriculum and it is up to the language partners to determine what they want to work on.
Take Haifaa and Susan, for example. The pair have been Skyping weekly for a while now—a testament to the program’s success. Haifaa came from Baghdad to Jordan three years ago. Her family fled the sectarian and political tensions in the city in the hope of finding a more stable life elsewhere. “We are currently waiting to go to Australia, where our relatives are,” the soon-to-be 23-year-old says in remarkably good English. Susan is a retired marine biologist from the northeastern United States.
When Haifaa comes to CRP twice a week for the eLearning program, Susan is already online, waiting for her. “She gives me assignments: Reading and writing. She corrects my grammatical mistakes, pronunciation, and even things like pausing in sentences,” Haifaa explains. Susan adds via email, “When I met Haifaa, I was so impressed by her motivation, determination to learn English well, and work ethic. Now that we have been meeting for over a year, her English, which was good to start with, has progressed in a really impressive way!”
“At the beginning, I was very shy and couldn’t talk confidently with her, because it was my first time to talk to a native speaker,” Haifaa remembers. “But Susan supports me so much; it is a great experience. I will never forget it. I hope a lot of people will do this program in the future.” Susan wholeheartedly agrees. “It’s a brilliant program. It’s just two hours a week but can have a huge impact on the student. I have encouraged friends, family, and neighbors to join the program as well.”
Although Susan has a background in academia, she stresses that language partners don’t need to have teaching experience. “It’s not a necessary requirement to contribute a lot at all. Any English speaker can join!”
“ELearning is also a fantastic way for donors and people interested in CRP’s work to virtually meet people here at the center and understand their situation, to create exchanges that way,” Megan adds. “We always need more volunteers to join the program!”
Haifaa hopes to go to university if she’s resettled in Australia. She understands that English is one of the main requirements, and is happy to get this opportunity to learn.