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Kiwis generous in their welcome to new migrants

English language skills and support for effective resettlement

Media Release

5 December 2001

Kiwis generous in their welcome to new migrants

New research on volunteer work and the motivation of volunteers shows New Zealanders are very willing to help new migrants arriving in the country. The research contradicts a perception of ambivalence that appeared to surround the arrival of the ‘Tampa’ Afghan refugees.

ESOL (English for Speakers of other Languages) Home Tutor Service data shows New Zealand has a high number of volunteers keen to support refugees and migrants. ESOL Home Tutor Service spokesperson Margy-Jean Malcolm says the service has actually seen a surge of interest in volunteer tutoring in the wake of the recent arrival of Afghan refugees, particularly in the Auckland area. This flies in the face of suggestions that Kiwis are not ready to help new migrants.

The research shows that on average, volunteers give 4 hours a week to the ESOL Home Tutor Service. This represents over 400,000 hours per annum, gifted to help refugees and migrants learn English and settle in New Zealand.

The new report on volunteer work in the ESOL Home Tutor Service: “Celebrating and Supporting our Volunteers’ Work”, is to be launched at a special function to mark the official closing of the “International Year of Volunteers”(IYV) tomorrow, Thursday December 6th, at the National Centre for Adult Education and Community Learning, in Wellington.

Associate Minister of Education, Lianne Dalziel, will launch the report, which also shows that volunteers involved in the Service’s growing community-based Social English Groups give more than six hours each, every week. Valuing the total voluntary contribution at a basic teacher aide rate would represent over $5 million per year, which graphically demonstrates the valuable resource given to the Service. More than 2000 volunteers tutor refugees and migrants in 25 schemes throughout the country.

The research was conducted by Melanie Martin, MA Social Science Research student from Victoria University, who spent her second year placement with the National Association of ESOL Home Tutor Schemes. This IYV project paints a very positive picture of tutors’ generosity and what the organisation is doing through its 25 schemes to value and support their work.

Volunteers in the survey described increased confidence in dealing with agencies, community services and coming to grips with everyday life here, as the key difference that their language tutoring makes for new New Zealanders, followed by improvements in their fluency in English. The next most popular theme was friendship. The study confirms the importance of a welcoming friendship for building the learners’ confidence and English language skills. But it also highlights that the friendship and learning about other cultures through the home tutoring relationship is mutual. One volunteer said: “In two short years I’ve made more friends than in the previous ten!”

Many quotes from volunteers highlight the rewards of tutoring. Yet these don’t come without a major commitment. “Each tutor completes initial formal training, plans their lesson, tutors their migrant learner, attends tutor support meetings, gives support outside lesson time, and must also travel to their learner, “ says Ms Malcolm. “Our biggest organisational challenge is to improve our communication with, and support for, such a large pool of dedicated volunteers”.


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