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Linking the past and future


Wednesday February 20, 2008

Linking the past and future - family stories capture a personal history

Bilingual family history books are to be presented to adult refugees, who are taking part in a unique literacy project, in Christchurch.

Thirteen women and two men, from an adult ESOL-literacy class run by ESOL Home Tutors Christchurch (Inc) will be presented with the personalised booklets by Christchurch City Councillor Sally Buck to mark International Mother Language Day on February 21.

Each booklet, containing their pictures and memories from their home countries, was prepared by the Kurdish and Afghan women as part of the classes and printed for them by ESOL Home Tutors.

Designed to be shared with their children and to provide a vital link with the culture of their homeland, they carry simple text both in English and in the students’ first language – either Kurdish or Farsi.

ESOL Home Tutors Christchurch will also be celebrating International Mother Language Day by making presentations to its two Bilingual Assistants, Galawezh Noori and Durafshan Atayee. Both women came to New Zealand as refugees and have upskilled to be in paid employment. They now speak fluent English and provide vital support for the learners.

The ESOL Home Tutors countrywide ESOL-literacy programme is believed to be unique in New Zealand in its provision of mother tongue for adult learners.

Joy Judd, Principal Coordinator of ESOL Home Tutors Christchurch said: “The books are for learners and their children to enjoy together, to strengthen links between New Zealand and the homeland.

“The fact that the books are bilingual emphasises that both their first language and the English language are important in the context of their settlement.

“These learners have never had a chance to learn to read or write in their first language. Along with the teacher of the class, Sue Blakely, Galawezh and Durafshan worked with the learners to produce the text for the booklets. The process of discussing their experiences to produce the booklets supports the resettlement process.”

Dorothy Thwaite, Programmes Manager at ESOL Home Tutors’ national office, said: “The Bilingual Assistants help to teach skills which give learners independence in so many ways. As 2008 is also the UN International Year of Languages, we felt it was appropriate to honour the work that they do.”

ESOL Home Tutors is New Zealand’s largest settlement agency. Its 200 staff and 3,000 volunteers are working with 6,000 refugee and migrant adult learners in 23 New Zealand locations.

The organisation provides a range of voluntary and paid, one to one, group English language tuition and settlement support services.

The ESOL-literacy programme is offered in seven areas across the country, with 330 learners, mainly refugees, currently taking part.

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