Today, 24 February 2023, marks the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in a major escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War, which began in 2014.
The invasion has caused tens of thousands of deaths and instigated Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II. In the first week of the invasion, the UN reported over a million refugees had fled Ukraine; this subsequently rose to over eight million by 31 January 2023.
Abi Williams is qualified as a CELTA teacher (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults), Abi noticed there were a number of Ukrainian people locally who wanted to learn English.
Abi said, “Following on from the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, and the homes for Ukraine scheme, I realised there was a lack of immediate English language provision for refugees arriving in Wirral.
“Having recently completed my CELTA qualification; at the beginning of May, I set up a free English language class for Ukrainian refugees, initially running out of the Green Community Shop and Centre in Oxton Village.”
As more Ukrainian refugees arrived in Wirral and word spread of these classes, the numbers began to grow. Abi was put in touch with Christchurch, who were willing and able to provide a more suitable space for the growing group.
Most of the students attend other ESOL (English as a Second or Other Language) classes in addition to those held at Christchurch. However, many are still on waiting lists for accredited courses, due to limited class numbers and despite living here for around six months.
Unfortunately, the demand for English language classes in Wirral is greater than the provision so there remains a need for the ESOL classes at Christchurch.
Other ESOL classes are also provided by Wirral Change, Wirral Lifelong Learning, and Wirral Metropolitan College.
Abi continued, “Our group is a safe space to come and meet others while learning some essential English language skills.
“Some of the students have now found work here thanks to their dedication to learning the language. Some have also moved on from their host families into their own accommodation.
“Lessons are completely free and unfunded. They are provided voluntarily by a CELTA-qualified teacher and take place every Tuesday morning at Christchurch via the community entrance.
Some of the students spoke of their experience of learning English with Abi. One said, “I really appreciate the teacher’s help and support in the UK! It’s more than just lessons: it’s communication and lovely spending time together.”
Another said, “These are not just lessons, Abi knows how to create such a warm, kind atmosphere. The lessons are highly professional, I look forward to every Tuesday. I spoke about our lessons in the Job Centre, our council, our resettlement social worker – they all wrote down this information. Abi, thank you so much for your work and your wonderful heart.”
And a third said, “Now i feel more familiar with English life and I’m not afraid to speak with native speakers. In your classes, Abi, I found new Ukrainian friends. I learned a lot in warm and good company.”