Thursday, 17 March 2011

A small (but important) request

I’m not a runner. Really I’m not. But I’m running the SMH half marathon in order to raise money for the Sydney University Refugee Language Program. If you support the cause and would like to show it some love, please click on the link below. Thank you.

Why the Refugee Language Program?

As those of you who know me well know, I am passionate about education for all. I spent 5 years teaching English in the UK to a variety of learners – the majority of which were asylum seekers or refugees. During this time, I met a huge variety of people from different areas of the world. These people had different backgrounds, cultures and religious beliefs and were all at differing stages of their application processes.

One thing, however, united them - and that was their determination to learn how to communicate in English and to learn about British culture and tradition.

In the face of financial hardship, personal trauma and displacement, 97% of my asylum seeker and refugee students attended class every day, every lesson, rain or shine, no matter what. For them, the college and the structure and support it offered them was sometimes the only constant certainty in their lives and I quickly realised how important it became to them.

For them, learning was a privilege. In some cases, their accepted ideas or beliefs would be challenged morally and mentally, a natural part of arriving from a country with a strict culture to a country as liberal as Britain. Some arrived with little or no schooling and they had to learn how to learn in a formal educational environment.

They questioned, they studied, they presented their ideas in a new language. They worked to pass exams – some, for the first time in any language. They helped one another, worked together in class with learners from ten, twenty different cultures, and listened patiently to other students’ comments. They respected one another.

I, in turn, learnt a great deal from them – not only about geography, language, politics and culture, but also about human strength, kindness and humility.

For so many people who arrive either here in Australia, or in the UK, the structure and the education college provides is a lifeline, a chance to change, to learn and to communicate, to meet new friends and to feel like a part of the wider community.

Without funding, the RLP is unable to offer the services it provides – educational trips to local places of interest, funding to help students get to the University for class, a communal lunch on a Saturday.

I would ask if you can help, in even a small way, to click the link above and visit my sponsorship page. You will not just be supporting me in my run (and let’s face it, I need all the help I can get), you will also be ensuring a happy future for the RLP and its fantastic students and staff.

Thank you, so much.

Please feel free to read about the RPL and the great work it does for asylum seekers and refugees in Sydney.

What is it?

The Refugee Language Program at Sydney University provides a diverse range of services to refugees and asylum seekers. These include on-campus classes, home tutoring and a referral service. We currently run 4 classes:

• an Academic Writing class on Wednesdays
• a Creative Writing class on Saturdays
• an Intermediate class, also on Saturdays
• and a Computer class, also on Saturdays

Learners are invited to attend a lunch and conversation class every Saturday.


The class teachers are volunteers and include university staff, students, alumni and local community members. There are also a number of volunteers who work as conversation partners after classes or as individual tutors.


Students in the Refugee Language Program come from many countries including the Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Columbia, Peru, Burma, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Egypt, Sri Lanka, China, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Indonesia. Many of the students hold Bridging E Visas, the toughest and most excluding visa that the Government offers. This visa does not allow a person access to Medicare, Centre Link allowances or adult education classes.


The program has been operating since September 2003; the co-ordinator’s position is funded by the Senate of the University of Sydney.


The RLP also receives donations and grants from individuals and community organizations to cover additional running costs, lunches, student fares and sundry expenses.

(information taken from the RLP website )

That said, I'm off for a run........

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