Laughter and games - and the chance to learn about British life

Richard is a volunteer on our Talking Together project, which offers informal language training and mentoring to long-term UK residents who have little or no knowledge of English. He says the project is opening doors and providing new experiences which all contribute to community integration.

I really enjoyed my volunteer teaching experience with TimeBank and I established a bond I did not expect with the ladies I taught. So I was delighted when an educational visit for the students was suggested.

I really believed that an outing a few months after the classes had ended would show us how far they had come and whether the English they had learnt had stuck.

As with most charities, time and resources are hard come by, so I volunteered to organise the trip.  It really was no bother and it enabled me to learn many skills I can use in my future charity career such as budgeting, creating formal itineraries and hunting down discounts!

On the big day we all met up – including the Golden Hillock Children’s Centre's co-ordinator Nazia – to take the train for the Thinktank science museum in Birmingham. Most of the class were there and their children too, which made the venture even more special.

At the station we found to our surprise none of the students had EVER ridden a train before! Yet another new experience for the women, and they’d evidently prepared for it with their children dressed in Thomas the Tank engine clothes. I never thought a four minute train journey could have so much meaning.

The Thinktank proved to be a spectacular choice for our trip, providing entertainment and education for students, teachers and children alike. Watching the students explore the science gardens puzzles with their children was a particular highlight for me as it was fascinating to see them figure out the English instructions combined with natural human curiosity.

Another shining moment was the fun we had with an interactive robot. By selecting different phrases for the robot to say, the women could show off their command of English by replying, in between the laughter of course.

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Other notable parts of the day included a planetarium show and a model village children’s area, as well as walking into the city centre (another first for one of the students) for something to eat. The Thinktank was not only about fun and games, it also had loads of historical artefacts which illustrated life in Birmingham and England. I saw this as an extra bonus in helping them integrate into the community by understanding and sharing local history.  

All in all, the trip was a fantastic conclusion to three months of teaching. Seeing the women’s confidence and use of English confirmed the efforts of all involved in the TimeBank scheme. Saying farewell at the station I swelled with happiness on hearing how they were all enrolled on college ESOL courses to continue their learning and were thoroughly enjoying it. It was lovely to see that the TimeBank classes not only sparked my career into teaching but also these women into learning.  

If you'd like to know more about our Talking Together project, take a look here