EfA London: supporting adult migrants during COVID-19

The Coronavirus pandemic is a once-in-a-generation event for us all.  No one could have fully prepared for this. Now, more than ever, we need to make sure that we can continue to support vulnerable people.

English for Action London is a project funded by money raised by Health Lottery London East.  The project provides free ESOL lessons to adult migrants who live in Tower Hamlets and have limited English.  Historically, the aim of the project has been to encourage members to take collective action on social problems they face.  Issues that EfA London has tackled include poor housing, poor working conditions, hate crime, and lack of migrants’ rights.  In addition, the project gives participants the chance to come together and discuss their similar experiences.

Following the outbreak of coronavirus, the group has had to stop their regular lessons and get-togethers.  Relative to the rest of the UK, Tower Hamlets has a particularly high number of cases of coronavirus.  The charity is now experimenting with teaching via Skype and Whatsapp, while also encouraging educators to share teaching guides.  Project members have also started calling round the students to check in with them.  In cases where students are self-isolating, they have also been dropping off groceries.

We spoke with Phoebe Cullingworth, Fundraising Manager at English for Action London, who said the following:

“English classes provide a much-needed support network for people who are often very isolated. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we're finding that we're able to continue supporting isolated people when they need it most. Some people are not registered with a GP yet, or cannot read the NHS advice.

We've even had students worried that they will be charged for coronavirus treatment.  This is something migrants all too often experience.  We have been translating information and calling people on the phone in their first language.  We’ve also been providing online sessions, to help people with low English voice any worries and support each other.  Many of our students rely on their weekly classes to be able to connect with others.  So we're trying to be resourceful and provide lots of ways for people to connect online."


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