Lent Appeal 2016: The Sunflower College


Breaking through the IMG_4170
language barrier

One of the projects in the county already helping refugees and asylum seekers is Sunflower College, based at St Christopher’s, in Sneinton, Nottingham.

Here, upwards of 30 people gather on Tuesdays to learn English under the leadership of Liz Harrison, a qualified teacher, who is supported by a team of 15 volunteers.

Learning English helps the students in many ways; they find it easier to mix and make friends; it helps them to integrate and play a wider role in society; it improves their chances of getting a job, or moving on to formal education.

Not everyone at Sunflower is a refugee or asylum seeker but there are students from at least 20 different countries working in small groups to improve their conversational and written English, and at the same time make new friends and build up their confidence.

“People can just turn up, it’s a drop-in thing,” said Liz, “though most people drop in and then start coming regularly. I had a defini
te call to set this up – I had a belief that it would grow.”

Liz, who worships at St Christopher’s, said Sunflower opened in September 2011 with just a few students for the first two years, but then the numbers started to grow: “Our numbers have grown but I don’t think it’s only because of the greater need, it could be that we are now established and people are telling friends and neighbours about what we are doing.”

Resources for Lent

The atmosphere is informal and the teaching is based around weekly topics, which are introduced using Powerpoint, mime, objects, games, or demonstrations; for instance, when the subject was cooking the students were introduced to cooking vocabulary through the icing of cakes.

The students then work with the volunteers in small groups, though one-to-one tuition is offered to those that need it.

There is a loyalty card scheme to motivate students – after attending ten sessions they receive the gift of a book or an item of stationery.  Those that can pay 50p per session, which goes towards refreshments, heating and lighting at St Christopher’s, and the attendance prizes. Students can also borrow books from a library of books designed for adults learning to read English.

The college was named after the Sunflower Café that is run at St Christopher’s; it opens once a fortnight, on a Tuesday, and serves up tasty food at very reasonable prices.