Language support for Myanmar/Burmese seniors’ group in Sunshine

Settlement Program staff and Burmese participants at a group excursion to Sunshine Library.

Settlement Program staff and Burmese participants at a group excursion to Sunshine Library.

Over March and April 2017 the Language for Life program provided 15 seniors from the Burmese/Myanmar community the opportunity to develop new skills and improve their English.  The eight-week program was conducted in partnership between Jesuit Social Services’ Settlement Program, Foundation House and Spectrum.

Held at Sunshine, each week the program commenced with a short psycho-educative session, convened by Foundation House and Spectrum. This psycho-educative part gave participants the chance to discuss and explore ways of improving their general health and wellbeing needs.

For the remainder of the program each week, Jesuit Community College provided an English language class, supported by volunteer tutors, designed to strengthen participants’ language skills.  This class aimed to build participants’ confidence to engage with their wider community and foster independence. The final English class involved a guided visit to Sunshine Library, which allowed participants to discover broader resources that can assist their ongoing English language development.

The program was capped by an excursion to the Jewish Museum in St Kilda on 2 May 2017. Excursions have been a regular feature of Jesuit Social Services’ community development work with the Burmese/Myanmar seniors’ community. These excursions increase social inclusion into wider society, build social networks within the group and expand participants’ local knowledge and cultural experiences.

Settlement Program facilitator Thiha Yarzar reflected, “I’ve been working with this community over a year. In that time, community members have made big leaps in their knowledge and in their confidence to connect with local organisations and service providers. They’ve noticed that, as well as enjoying the Language for Life program, their English is much better than before and have requested more classes until they are able to speak English properly.”

Jesuit Social Services is now facilitating another eight-week English language program for this community, through Jesuit Community College, over May and June 2017.