Jesuit Social Services’ English Language Support Program assists participants with English language skills and gives them a greater understanding of life in Australia,  KATHRYN KERNOHAN.

Participant Fariba (left) and program volunteer Anna Wright-Smith (right)

Settling in a new country can be daunting, particularly when you are not fluent in the language or familiar with local customs.

Jesuit Social Services’ English Language Support Program aims to help people newly arrived in Australia improve their English language skills and learn more about life in Australia. Volunteer mentors are central to this program. Our volunteer mentors come from all walks of life and find us in numerous ways – online, through word of mouth, through our network of supporters and groups like the Xavier Social Justice Network.

Across two rooms in Sunshine Library, dozens of people such as Fariba (pictured) from countries including Iraq, Iran and South Sudan are working closely with mentors to increase their knowledge of shopping.

Participants are completing activity sheets about common types of groceries and learning basic skills about interacting with customer service staff.

“This program not only helps people improve their English language skills, which assists them to settle in Australia, but it also gives them a greater understanding of local society and culture,” says Carole PondevieLay, Community Partnerships Coordinator at Jesuit Social Services.

“Many of our participants have experienced significant hardship, such as time in immigration detention, on their journey to seeking asylum in Australia.

“Coming to a program like this every week, where people see familiar faces and feel welcomed and included, is a great way to help people improve their confidence and support them on positive pathways.”