With everything that has been going on in Europe lately, there has been a lot of talk about teaching English to refugees.
Almost 4.2 million refugees have fled Ukraine as of March 2022, but that’s just the latest refugee crisis to hit the headlines. Almost 7 million Syrians have sought refuge in other countries; nearly 4 million people have fled South Sudan since 2013; over 1 million Rohingya refugees have fled violence in Myanmar; and roughly 1 in 10 refugees all over the world comes from Afghanistan.
In fact, over the last decade, the global refugee population has more than doubled.
How can we help refugees?
It’s understandable to feel helpless in the face of this crisis. After all, what can we do? But there are, actually, a few ways we can get involved and do our bit.
Host a refugee
If possible, offer your home as a place of refuge. If you have a spare room, you can sign up with the Refugees Welcome and Airbnb’s Open Homes initiatives. These projects match displaced people with spare rooms, at no cost. Not all projects are running in every country so find one which is possible for you to join.
Donate your money or your time. Volunteer in organisations which offer help to refugees. Donate money to reputable organisations, such as Doctors without Borders or Amnesty International. Many people are booking rooms from Ukrainian hosts through Airbnb, without any intention of using their booking. In this way they are contributing financially to everyday citizens in Ukraine, wherever they may be.
Teaching English to Refugees
If you are an experienced TEFL teacher or if you are still studying, volunteer teaching is a great way to get real-life hands-on experience. You won’t earn money but you will gain valuable skills. Plus, you will be giving back to your community.
Check with your local universities or language schools if they offer English lessons to refugees. Find out how you can get involved.
If you’re not confident teaching refugees, the internet has got you covered. A Google search will give you loads of free classroom materials and activity ideas. RefugeeOne has collated a range of resources for teachers of refugees that can be used in the classroom. The British Council’s ESOL Nexus website is another great resource.
Read more: 5 Great Websites for EFL Worksheets
Some things to consider when teaching English to refugees:
- Be mindful. Avoid heavy, sensitive topics which can bring up trauma response.
- Keep it light. Now is not the time to ask your students what happened to them or what governments should be doing. Talk about everyday matters.
- Make it practical. Teach your students practical language and skills that will be immediately useful to them: filling in forms, describing medical conditions, personal details.
- Take it easy. These students might be in a state of shock. Don’t overburden them with too much information.
- Go back to basics. Bear in mind your refugees might not be literate in their own languages or with the Roman alphabet. You might need to teach your students how to read and write.
Volunteering your time and your skills is a gift not everyone can give. As a TEFL teacher, volunteering to teach English to refugees is one small thing we can do to help others in need. No matter how, we highly recommend getting involved.