Below is a first-hand insight from one of our volunteers who recently was involved in our ‘Welcome to England’ project.
When 2021 began, I was determined to make use of the strange situation in which we found ourselves. Around the world, we were confined to our homes. I’ll admit I felt lonely – I missed speaking to my friends and my family. But after nearly a year of lockdown worldwide, the novelty of Zoom trivia quizzes, happy hours, and coffee chats had worn off.
I was scrolling through Instagram one evening when I came across Migrant Action. I’ve always felt very strongly pro-immigration. After all, I am the product of two immigrant parents and I myself am an immigrant in the UK. Migrant Action was recruiting English teachers to volunteer!
While normally Migrant Action is Leeds-based, because of the unique situation of the year, I was able to volunteer from the comfort of my home in London. I joined the first welcome session with other volunteers and I was so happy to see such a diverse group of people volunteering to not only teach English, but also be a welcoming presence in migrants’ lives here in England.
To be honest, I felt nervous to be there. I’m not qualified to teach English, but Fidelis and Abbi did an excellent job making us feel welcome and made us feel like we were making a difference by volunteering our time. A few weeks later, I jumped on an introduction call with Fidelis, the founder of Migrant Action, and a lovely couple from Guinea-Bissau: Fernanda and Augusto. We had a short conversation and got to know each other. It’s hard to tell if there’s chemistry over Zoom, but I immediately liked Fernanda and Augusto. We agreed to proceed with weekly English lessons.
I remember the day of our first lesson. I had no idea what I was doing. Fernanda and Augusto already had a decent understanding of English and I scrambled to assess their level of vocabulary and grammar. By the end of our first lesson, I thought they’d go running to Fidelis and tell him they wanted a new teacher. Instead, they asked if we could meet twice a week!
Since that first lesson, we’ve had a marvelous time. Every Tuesday and Thursday we get together to learn new vocabulary with the help of websites like Quizlet. We practice pronunciation and work ourselves up into fits of laughter. We’ve gotten to know each other over the past few months and it has been such a joy to become a regular presence in each others’ lives. In fact, when the lockdown in England was lifted, I went to visit Fernanda and Augusto in Leeds. They welcomed me into their home like an old friend and fed me the most delicious Guinean four-course dinner!
While most pairings last about 6 months, Fernanda, Augusto and I have agreed to continue on with English lessons. I am so proud of the small, but noticeable changes in their vocabulary or pronunciation. I can only hope that our time together has made them feel welcome in this country and equipped for their new lives in England.