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Connect through Language in Malvern

There’s a buzz in the room, as the students gather for their Monday morning language class at The Eden Centre. Mugs of tea and coffee are being handed out as groups cluster together, greeting each other and catching up on the latest news.

For the past year and a half, twice a week, anywhere between 20 and 30 people come together to learn English, thanks to the hard work of a dedicated group of volunteer teachers.   

Jan and Dave Watts had already been involved with something similar in Worcester and decided it could work in Malvern. Jan went around local workplaces, supermarkets and the job centre to spread the word, to try and attract people who needed to learn the language. ‘Just before we began, I wondered if anybody would turn up!’ says Jan. ‘We had seven people attend that very first lesson. The following week 15 people came, and the numbers kept growing as the word spread.’ 

The students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and communities. Some were re-settled here after escaping the fighting and destruction in Syria and speak almost no English. Others, from the local Chinese community, have a grasp of the language and join intermediate learning groups. Over time, the students can move through the groups, becoming more fluent in spoken and written English.   

Hassan and his wife Yara ran a successful business in Syria until their town was besieged by the Syrian army. Now living in Malvern, they are keen to learn the language, re-train, and give something back to the country that gave them somewhere safe to live.  

Other students come from Ledbury, Worcester and Hereford to attend every week. Some are very dedicated; one man doesn’t finish his job in a restaurant until 3am, but never misses a morning session, despite only getting a few hours sleep. 

‘I started here by offering to make the tea and coffee’ says Sarah Cuddy, one of the volunteers who has since trained to teach English as a foreign language. ‘These sessions are not just about learning the language, they’re also a focal point for many communities and a social gathering.’ 

Every lesson is free, thanks to Eden Church which runs the project. The volunteers are all trained English language teachers and assistants, all of whom give their time for free. Earlier this year, their work was recognised when they became finalists in the Worcestershire Education Awards.  

There are more plans to expand the English classes even further. In the new year, they hope to start evening classes to improve the language skills of the local Polish community.

If you’d like to find out more about Connect Through Language, you can call 07534 485487 or email connectthroughlanguage@gmail.com