Guest blog post from Welcome to English

Posted on 22.06.2018

Welcome to English CIC’s Friends for English project participants had a very positive experience working with Ahilapalapa (Ahi) Rands and Invisible Dust.

Friends for English is a befriending project for newcomers to Hull to practise English, learn about living in Hull and to make new friends. Most of the learners and around a quarter of befrienders are refugees and asylum seekers.

With Ahi, we integrated work on the cookbook into our weekly befriending sessions. Preparing recipes provided scope to use a wide range of skills, such as numeracy, reading, handwriting and giving instructions. Talking about recipes helped to improve the dynamics. For the first time the learners were the ones with the knowledge and they spoke with added fluency, confidence and pride. Not only did befrienders learn about the recipes, but they also got an insight into customs around food and cooking. Who prepares the food, when different foods are eaten, how food is eaten. Whether it is possible to prepare the recipes in Hull and what adaptations need to be made. Cultural similarities and differences were discussed and celebrated. Because there was an end-product (the cookery book and our first outing to the launch of the cookery book), there was a real purpose to the work and this provided added motivation.

Asylum seekers and refugees in Hull rarely get the opportunity to leave the city, the opportunity for some of the participants to go to Sewerby Hall for the launch of the cookbook was wonderful. We all enjoyed the Ahi’s presentation, the science experiments, the choir the food and the chance to visit the hall and gardens. Mohammad and Tamana were delighted to be filmed talking about their recipes. Quite an achievement considering less than a year ago they couldn’t communicate in English.

Learners felt proud that they had contributed to such a beautiful book and that a part of their culture was recorded and shared.  Friends for English befrienders are all volunteers and found the cookbook very rewarding as it demonstrates the excellent progress the learners have made with their help.  It includes, for example, a beautifully hand-written recipe by a learner who has never been to school and could write little more than her name a few months before.

Everybody was given a copy of the cookbook, so we will be able to use the recipe book as a learning resource in our befriending sessions. We are also going to keep a copy in the community library we are developing.

Mr Singh put our thanks to Ahi, Invisible Dust and Sewerby Hall into song.

– Karen van Diesen, Director, Welcome to English CIC

Image: © Karen Van Diesen

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