Imagine arriving to start a new life in a country where no one speaks your mother tongue, no one reads your alphabet, everything is unfamiliar and worse you have no friends or family to get you started. Many asylum seekers, refugees and other internationals have felt just like this when they arrived in Norwich, and English+ was set up to help.
Offering English language and conversation classes in local churches, signposting and support with practical issues and a range of community and social activities, English+ helps newcomers to learn English, find community and make our city their home.
And this month English+ has celebrated its 10th anniversary with an evening for volunteers, students and supporters with Dippy the Dinosaur at Norwich Cathedral. Following a reception in the Cloisters, the party moved to visit Dippy himself in the Cathedral where Bishop Graham, who has recently become Patron of English+, spoke warmly about the work of the charity and his own support for welcoming those who need our care.
Ten years has seen the charity go from its first English language classes with a handful of students at Holy Trinity Norwich in 2011, to a registered charity supporting over 300 students and their families from nearly 60 countries in the last year alone. This work could not have been delivered without a hugely committed team of volunteers – qualified teachers providing language tuition at all levels, teaching supporters, tea makers, and providers of practical help, friendship and support.
The pandemic has seen all of its English language and conversation classes move online, and support for students changed to phone calls and doorstep visits. Many students have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic so English+ has delivered weekly food parcels, care packages and holiday activity packs and helped with digital poverty issues over the past 18 months working with many others including Soul Foundation, New Routes and Bridge Plus, St Thomas, Love Your Neighbour, Holy Trinity, Gateway Vineyard, the Justice and Peace Group, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Free Cakes for Kids Norwich, and Norfolk Knitters and Stitchers.
As restrictions have started to lift recently, students have enjoyed a summer picnic in Eaton Park and are looking forward to a trip to the beach in Cromer. Term will begin again in September with the hope of a return to lessons in person.
As English+ looks forward to the next 10 years, a fundraising appeal has been launched by Chair of Trustees Canon Andy Bryant to raise funds towards the core work of providing English Language and conversation classes in city churches. To become involved as a cornerstone supporter pledging £10 per month towards this work visit their giving page or email email@example.com
This article originally appeared on Network Norfolk, photo is courtesy of Network Norfolk.