‘Please help us to help the Romas’

Roma chapion Martin Burrell with course co-ordinator Tracy Guy (left) and Cornelia Angel
Roma chapion Martin Burrell with course co-ordinator Tracy Guy (left) and Cornelia Angel

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.”

> Find out more by emailing tg56luton@gmail.com