Free conversation classes to help migrants

Werribee Church of Christ pastor Garry Cowley (front) with some of the church members who provide free conversational English classes for migrants. (Damjan Janevski) 388115_01

It was after a Sunday service Werribee Church of Christ a decade ago that parishioner Bronwen Hickman noticed a group of young migrants from Iran had arrived seeking help.

“Someone had probably told them go to the church they’ll help you,” said Ms Hickman who greeted the young men.

“They’d just arrived in Hoppers Crossing where they’d been allotted a flat to live in. They were four young guys but they had no furniture, cooking utensils, nothing. The flat was empty,” she said describing what assistance the men were seeking.

It was while they were asking for this assistance that she notice something else they needed help with.

“They were really struggling to make themselves understood they couldn’t speak much English,” recalled Ms Hickman, herself a former English teacher.

“I thought that’s something I could do to help with. I could help with English and translate for them and so on.”

And so began weekly English conversation classes at the church which have been running ever since and have just resumed for 2024 following a summer break.

While Ms Hickman is a trained English teacher, she said the classes are not formal and focused more on conversation, building confidence and teaching basic words required for everyday life.

“Fairly practical stuff, language they might need like buying a train ticket, going to the bank or post office or getting whatever they need,” she said.

Along with Ms Hickman, there are three to four other volunteers who help with the classes, but she stressed there is always a need more.

“We’d like to be able to do it one on one if we can.”

The free classes run every Saturday at Werribee Church of Christ from 10am to 11.30am.

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