By Francesca Casonato
A charity has won a national award for their adult learners course that helps refugees learn English and start up their life in the UK.
CARAS is a community organisation based in Blakenham Road, Tooting that draws people from all South London.
They were among the 250 nominations at this year’s Festival of Learnings, organised by the Learning and Work Institute and supported by the Department for Education.
It was their amazing work with the refugees course CARAS ESOL that made them stand out and win the President’s Award, one of the few prizes destined to organisations.
Stephen Evans, chief executive of Learning and Work Institute, said: “CARAS ESOL is a fantastic example of support that engages with young people and adults, and in turn helps them into more mainstream education.”
According to Daniel Calvert, Head of Learning and Language Skills at CARAS, what makes them so special is taking care of all the aspects of their adult learners’ life.
He said: “We are aware of these people’s trauma and that there is a lot going on in their lives. We want to be welcoming and flexible.
“That’s why we say: ‘Come when you are ready, come as you are and we’ll work together’. It’s not like college, where attendance is mandatory. We call that ‘trauma-informed’ approach.”
In fact, the main purpose of CARAS is to create opportunities for people to interact outside their classes.
Daniel said: “We want to give them activities that are open and welcoming to help them get over their trauma and grow as people.
“It’s so much more than just classroom based learning. We also have activities like drama groups, gardening, and sports.
“So that they can practice English all together and consolidate what they’re learning. I think that makes us very special.”
During the lockdown, CARAS went out of their way to help all refugees connect online with Zoom classes and support those who didn’t have access to the internet.
“We collected fundings to buy phones and laptops for those who needed them. We coordinated with their social workers to make sure they had a laptop or a phone.
“I am really proud of how we kept everything going. We were actually able to expand our community online.”
And that’s when Bi Vincent Gole, a 34-year-old refugee from the Ivory Coast, started studying with them.
He said: “CARAS is a great opportunity for me.
“I have many ways to learn English. It helped me meet new people and improve my speech.
“Now I’ve learned how to order the right items at the supermarket.
“But I am also studying to get a better job in the future.”
Back in the Ivory Coast, Vincent was a field worker and he came to the UK in 2019 to do an internship with the Chelsea football team.
He now lives in South London as a refugee and thanks to CARAS has a new dream for the future.
Vincent said: “I would like to do a job to help people who are struggling. Maybe working for an NGO, helping people find a job or working in hospitals as a doctor.
“I couldn’t do that back in my country with my Human Resources and Communication degree.”
CARAS assisted Vincent not only with the grammar rules and his vocabulary, but they also helped him understand what he can do with his diploma.
“I asked them to help me convert my degree into the British equivalent and they gave me the contact of somebody who does that.
“I think that CARAS can really help me achieve my dreams and goals.”
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