As highlighted in our post earlier this week, people from minority ethnic backgrounds have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic due to a number of factors and barriers. Our MESH programme addresses the inequality caused by the communication barrier by improving access to language learning opportunities.
Cicely Lloyd works on this programme which we deliver in partnership with Voices in Exile. The Migrant ESOL Support Hub (MESH) works with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers on a one-to-one basis as they integrate themselves into life in Brighton & Hove.
The start of the Covid-19 pandemic saw most of Cicely’s client base stuck at home due to the lockdown. This group of people, some with very limited English skills, were required to stay indoors with their small children, many feeling vulnerable and lonely. The lockdown also meant the sudden loss of their opportunity to practise and improve their English through the adult education college courses they’d been attending as well as through the networks and friends they had made through MESH.
As our MESH case worker, Cicely thought it would be fun to get some of the women together online and quickly set up “Anna is cooking!” – a chance for a local chef to cook for an hour and a half via zoom whilst the women chatted to each other, learning English and cooking skills as they went along. Anna Schwartz of The World Food Project is an experienced facilitator, and has been running “Cook, Eat and Learn English” alongside English teachers for a while. Normally, Anna’s classes take place in a hall and everyone eats what they cook afterwards, so “Anna is cooking!” is an online version during the lockdown. Cicely has been supporting the ladies to get onto zoom and is present at each session to offer language support.
As well as the weekly sessions on zoom, the group has a WhatsApp chat going too so the participants can practice speaking English to each other.
The aim of this new, innovative peer support group is for the participants to be able to support themselves and each other and become more resilient as a group – as well as learning cooking skills and English.
Cicely is also facilitating “EC&EC” (English Conversation & Error Correction), a high-English level group for women to improve their language skills with a focus on current affairs and advanced grammar. You can see a photo of one of these recent sessions below. There will be a Food Safety accredited course taking place for EAL participants this summer too.