Teaching English to unaccompanied  minors and its emotional impact

A collaboration between Alessandra Cavalli and the Refugee Council


Alessandra is a Training Analyst with the SAP.  In this post she describes a workshop she has recently run to help volunteer tutors, who are teaching English to unaccompanied minors who are refugees and asylum seekers, to cope with the emotional impact.

The Refugee Council is one of the leading charities in the UK working directly with refugees, and supporting them to rebuild their lives.  The charity was founded in 1951 in response to the UN Convention for Refugees, which was created after World War II to ensure refugees were able to find safety in other countries. Since then, the Refugee Council has provided practical and emotional support to refugees from across the world to help them rebuild their lives and play a full part in society.

Among other activities, Refugee Council offers classes of English as a Foreign Language to unaccompanied minors.  Unaccompanied minors are vulnerable children with horrific stories in their past. The capacity to learn the language of the country they have arrived to, after incredible journeys of trauma and struggle, is paramount.  The new language represents the way into this foreign place they have arrived to.  Here everything is different: climate, habits, mentality and background.  The people who offer their time to Refugee Council to teach English to unaccompanied minors are all volunteers. Although they are aware of the importance of the task they are undertaking, the teachers are exposed to the emotional impact that the minors encounter when they are learning the new language, as they have to contain, regulate and facilitate the interaction with the children in a very complex way.

This is why this collaboration has started, the purpose of this workshop is to give space to the teachers to present in turns some of the interactions with the children, in order to look at the way the teachers are affected by them, departing from their experience.

This workshop is ongoing; it started in September 2016 and will continue on a once a monthly basis, free of charge.

 

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