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Language for life

10 April 2017
Teaching English to refugees

When Aida came to Australia, she had no family or friends. And having fled from Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia, she spoke only Kyrgyz and Russian.

As a non-English speaker in Australia, Aida was extremely isolated. She found it very difficult to build connections with people, and she struggled to make ends meet because the kind of work she could get was limited.

Aida was glad to be in Australia, but her new life was a struggle.  

The turning point came when she learned about the Refugee Language Program at the University of Sydney; a unique program in Australia. She contacted the office and enrolled immediately.  

The program does more than provide free English language classes. It breaks down social barriers for refugees by introducing them to Australian ideas and customs, providing reading materials, social activities and volunteer mentors. Participants are also given guidance in finding work.

They learn life skills that help them become part of the Australian community more quickly, and the people they meet create the sort of supportive networks everyone needs. 

The only way the Refugee Language Program and its volunteers can help hundreds of refugees every year is through the invaluable support of its donors. It receives no other funding.

According to government figures, since 2015, more than 16,000 refugees have arrived in Australia. The manager of the Refugee Language Program, Lesley Carnus, has seen first hand the desperate challenges faced by these newly arrived people. She has also seen the hope and potential the program builds in individuals.

With the support of our community we can continue to give refugees access to opportunities,” she says. “We can also give them the chance to make a home in Australia.”

Refugee Language Program Classroom

As for Aida, she has worked hard and her English is now strong enough for her to apply for a degree in nursing. Caption: Since 2015 more than 16,000 refugees have arrived in Australia. Aida has benefited from a University program that teaches English to refugees.

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