Helping new Southend residents feel at home

Published Monday, 9th November 2015

Photo of English language course members

A thriving organisation is helping Polish families to feel at home in Southend.

The group, which meets weekly at Trinity Methodist Church Family Centre, London Road, Westcliff, is led by the Council’s Integrated Youth Service outreach support worker, Iwona Kalisz.

It was launched after the Streets Ahead initiative found that some members of Southend’s Roma and Polish communities were becoming particularly isolated.

Iwona and her colleagues won the trust of families who now regularly attend the gathering.

They are learning English through tutors provided by Southend Adult Community College, and as a result are currently starting to seek training, job hunting and volunteering opportunities.

Iwona said: “Though some members of the group have been living here for a while, they only knew a bit of English.

“Often they have not had the chance to learn the language properly because they haven’t been able to afford classes, or because of childcare issues.

“The classes are designed to help prepare people for the world of work, as well as helping them become more integrated into the community.

“We also run classes called Reach, on Mondays from 4:30pm until 6:30pm where we have encouraged people to bring their children too.

“This group is really helping people gain more confidence, meet new friends, find out about relevant services and get involved in all kinds of activities.

“We have also just launched another Family Learning Programme including cooking, homework classes and English language tuition at the Storehouse Community Centre, Coleman Street, Southend. This will run every Wednesday from 5pm until 7pm thanks to Southend Adult Community College.”

As well as help with learning English, other Southend community groups and organisations are starting to be invited to the group too, to showcase their services.

Members have just been introduced to the work of Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and procedures over appointments, admissions and other medical issues.

David Fairweather, the hospital’s membership manager spoke with families about key hospital issues including the challenge of meeting A&E targets and the need to recruit more permanent staff in key areas such as consultants and specialist nurses.

David also highlighted the translation service the hospital provides for people from communities whose first language is not English.

David added: “I’d like to think that members of this group now have a contact within the hospital able to put them in touch with the right person or department, as well as provide them with the information or support that they need.

“As well as keeping them up-to-date with key issues, I also think it’s crucial to listen to their views and opinion on the hospital because who better to help us improve our services than the people  who use them?”

Executive Councillor for Community and Organisational Development, Councillor Ian Gilbert said: “We are pleased to support this organisation which, by breaking down language barriers, will contribute to a more cohesive, integrated and inclusive community in Southend.”