A little over a year ago, the UK government launched the Hong Kong British National Overseas Visa route in response to rising unrest in the country, to enable people from Hong Kong to move to the UK, start new lives here and eventually gain citizenship.
Many of these people, of all ages, arrived in Berkshire hoping to find work in the large IT and technology industries based around Reading. Numbers attending local Chinese churches increased so significantly that they reached out to the diocese to find ways of working together to support and welcome people into our communities.
The Revd Liz Jackson, Associate Archdeacon of Berkshire, had experience working as an English teacher and setting up a language school for Afghan and Syrian refugees. She used her expertise to start a volunteer project to provide language, citizenship, conversation, and employment learning and support to those who had recently moved to the area from Hong Kong.
Language Learning Link
Since starting in July 2021, Liz now has a team of around 20 volunteers, including some students from Reading University, tutoring 163 people a week online across Berkshire, Oxfordshire and beyond. There are still over 100 students on the waiting list to join the Language Learning Link classes but more volunteers are needed to be able to cater for their needs. More people are coming to the UK from Hong Kong and an increasing number are asylum seekers, so the need to expand support and welcome is growing.
“The biggest ask we get from people is for help with getting jobs and improving their English. Most can speak English to a good level but need help improving their confidence to be able to do those things we take for granted, such as speaking in a job interview, to their child’s school or visiting a GP. Without these additional skills it can be a real barrier for them to fully integrate into society.
“We want to make people feel as welcome as possible and start to feel at home and a part of our communities when they move to the UK. Its important that we build relationships with our new neighbours, learn from them and their culture and include them in our church communities.”
The diocese is working in partnership with Citizens UK in Reading on a new listening programme to establish the welcome experience newly arrived people have received and how the support from communities, employers and churches can be improved for the future.
Can you spare a couple of hours a week on a regular basis to help with online classes? Do you have good IT skills to help run the online sessions? No teaching experience is required, just an enthusiasm to welcome and help others learn. Find out more on the Language Learning Links website and complete the volunteer registration form.