Roma champion and Christchurch Bushmead vicar Martin Burrell is appealing for volunteers to help teach English to Luton’s Roma community.
The former Scottish Opera Orchestra clarinettist said: “Since January, Romanies have had the opportunity under EU laws to work in Britain. But if they don’t have English, they’re not going to be able to hold down a job.
“There are lots of courses out there but Romany people prefer to have English brought to them in their homes.
“We have a project that’s been running for nearly a year, funded by the Luton and Bedfordshire Community Foundation. It aims to help them engage with English, in recognition that this is a route to work and to integration.
“But we need to recruit many more volunteers to meet the huge need from the Roma community.”
The project’s literacy and language co-ordinator is Tracy Guy, 44, of Bushmead who did her training in ESOL (English as a second language) at the University of Bedfordshire.
The current course is run by Luton Adult Learning Centre.
The former pre-school practioner said: “It’s very similar to an early years foundation course – it’s the same sort of principle, teaching people how to read and write.
“I visit several ladies with mixed abilities and basic English. We look at the alphabet and I help with filling in forms.
“I really enjoy what I’m doing. I feel I’m making friends – and making a difference.”
She added: “We’re looking to recruit as many volunteers as we can and we’ll train them up.
“They don’t have to have a teaching background – we will teach them to teach English.
“People who respond should be flexible and prepared to work within a family unit. It can be challenging but it’s also very rewarding.”
Romanian widow and mother-of-six Cornelia Angel, 44, has benefitted from an ESOL course.
She said: “When we arrived I had no money, no work, no house. I sold flowers and did cleaning jobs.” Now all her younger children are at school and she’s had an interview for a full-time job in a care home: “Thanks to Martin – and Jesus.”
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