Lindsey Stephenson blogs on an exciting new venture God has opened up.
Have you heard about Hope? If you’ve been around for a while I hope you’ll know I’m referring to our Friday project, Hope English Club, based at Central House. If you’re new to Churchcentral, or just need a refresher, let me introduce you to a few of our international friends…
‘I’ came to Birmingham about 2 years ago when her husband got a job here. She comes from South America and her husband from southern Europe – their oldest daughter goes to the school opposite Central House and she started coming on Fridays to meet more people in the city and make friends. ‘I’ has a Catholic background and after a visit to south site commented, ‘it’s quite different to Latin mass!’
‘A’ comes from North Africa. Her kids go to school with the Fenton boys and after an invitation from Jenni in the playground she’s been a regular on Fridays with us through this year. She’s been coming up to Central House in a car with several other parents, all from different countries, who all met via the school, and joined the more formal language class run by Liz Brown on Thursdays too.
‘O’ is 16, and arrived here last year from east Africa. Because she was year 11 age and spoke no English at all, schools were reluctant to accept her and she spent most of the year out of education. Some of our team helped her mum visit schools and try to find somewhere for her to go. She came on Fridays for some basic phonics and support, and we heard last week that she’s now in college learning English full time and getting on well.
I could tell you… about our friends from China, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Eritrea (yes, our occasional bring-and-share lunches are a real cultural lesson as well as a feast!).
However, we want to do more. It won’t have escaped your notice that council services are under extreme budgeting pressure, and family services are increasingly being restricted to those in crisis. In response to this, and hoping to build on our good relationship with the school over the road, in the new year we plan to reopen Hope with extended hours and a new schedule.
Instead of one hour of ‘café’ style games, craft, activities and chat, followed by an hour of conversation lesson based around stories (some from the Bible and some from different cultures), we will now be offering a stay and play for 90mins, followed by a 30min transition time then a one hour language class.
We hope this will provide some flexibility, opening up an opportunity to meet other families as they finish their school run over the road, and offering a community-building service to the school, providing friendship and encouragement to those who don’t need a language class, as well as continuing to serve those who do. In time we may be open up this last hour and offer citizenship or parenting classes alongside the language as well.
As a team we’re excited about this as we think it will meet a real need in the area and enable us to grow our little group to reach out to other families in the area.
To do this well, though, we do need a few things:
- Could you pray? We’d love you to keep asking God to lead us in our planning, to provide the resources we need and for the families we’ll be working with to have soft hearts and be ready to encounter Jesus as they get to know us.
- Could you donate? If you, or your family or friends or neighbours, are having a clear out before Christmas please think of us. We’re looking for good quality toys for babies and children up to 4, and nearly-new books and rugs, mats or cushions in particular. Please contact Lindsey at South or Heather at West.
- Could you join our team? If language helping hasn’t been your thing, here’s an opportunity to join us doing something different! You would need to be available on a Friday morning for at least 2 hours between 8am and 1pm. We’ll need volunteers in all different areas, behind the scenes as well as out front. Please contact Lindsey to find out more.
Lastly, if you’re interested in volunteering, but aren’t sure what it might be like, here’s Katie, our newest volunteer, sharing her experience:
“I didn’t know what to expect when I started volunteering for Hope English Club, especially as I’ve never had any experience in helping others to learn English. However, I have loved being able to be a friendly face and helping others to learn English in a conversational way – meaning that even with my lack of experience, I could get involved!
“What I have enjoyed most about coming to Hope English is how much fun we all have – whether it’s playing games or even just eating together. Also, it has been a wonderful way to meet people belonging to different cultures and backgrounds.”