Birmingham: Catholic charity struggling to cope with huge demand for English classes


A Birmingham based Catholic charity is desperately appealing for more volunteer English teachers and more space to help run its free English as a Second Language (ESOL) programme. Students from over 120 different countries are crying out for the lessons.

Brushstrokes Manager, Teresa Clements said: “The need is overwhelming. If we had more volunteers we could do so much more. Our waiting lists are just getting longer and longer. The space is limited and the demand huge. We are trying to offer back to back classes. A large number of our students come from Kurdistan, Sudan and Albania and they are really desperate to learn.”

She added: “We also offer English as a Second Language for Health. Not only do students learn how to make a doctor’s appointment, they also build up the confidence and the vocabulary to be able to attend appointments by themselves.”

The men and women walking through the doors of Brushstrokes all speak of their desire to contribute to the local community. They want to be able to speak English and to integrate well into the local society.

One lady who had to escape Pakistan because her husband was in politics and their lives were no longer safe said: “I don’t want to be a useless person – I want to use my qualities and skills to contribute to England’s life.” Students come to learn of ‘Brushstrokes’ English classes, through social services; word of mouth, the asylum seekers information pack and numerous other routes.

Brushstrokes is a partnership community project set up in 1999 by the parish church of St Philip Neri, the Infant Jesus Sisters and Father Hudson’s Society (Social Care Agency of the Birmingham Roman Catholic Archdiocese). It is based in Smethwick, Sandwell and it works across Birmingham and the Black Country.

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