Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Award gives students plenty to talk about

Leeds STAR’s conversation club has won the Marsh Refugee Volunteer Award for volunteer run projects working with refugees. See how their success was reported by the Yorkshire Evening Post.

This article is taken from the Yorkshire Evening Post on 31st January 2007:

Students from a Leeds English language conversation class are celebrating after winning a national award.

Common Conversation, held at “The Common Place” social club in Wharf Street in Leeds city centre, offers informal English language lessons followed by a communal meal.

The group have won the Marsh Refugee Volunteer Award for volunteer run projects working with refugees or asylum seekers.

The award, a cheque for £650, was presented to Liz Maddocks, one of the volunteers in London at the annual meeting of the Refugee Council by Brian Marsh, chairman of the Marsh Christian Trust.

Ms Maddocks said: “Common Conversation is run by about 20 volunteers, from Student Action for Refugees, The Common Place, Oblong Resource Centre and the Refugee Council. When we started last year we had about eight students – now we have up to 50 students each week.

“Everyone is welcome at Common Conversation and the social aspect is just as important as the lessons themselves, providing an opportunity for people to make friends with local people and other refugees and asylum seekers. This really helps reduce isolation and promote community cohesion.

“Many of our students now volunteer at Common Conversation too, assisting with interpreting, cooking the food, paying out the bus fares and organising social events, including trips out to the seaside and local attractions.”

Maad Al-Mashhadani, from Iraq, said: “I came to Common Conversation to learn English and to make new friends. When I started I couldn’t understand English but after one year I can speak and I am more confident.

“The volunteers are very friendly so I like to come and now I volunteer too because I want to help other people like they helped me. It is a social and friendly place. I can meet and talk with my friends – local people and other refugees.”

Charlotte Cooke, Refugee Council head of operations (north) said: “It’s common sense that people who come here fleeing persecution want to be able to learn English and get along with local people. It shows what can be achieved with the goodwill of people in Leeds.”

Posted by Russell Brooks on 16/01/2008 at 12:20 PM