Sharing Lives

By Emily Bryson, Peer Education Project Manager

The Sharing Lives, Sharing Languages project was developed in response to the Syrian Vulnerable Persons’ Resettlement Scheme.  It aimed to provide non-native English speakers with opportunities to increase their social connections and practise their English outside the classroom.  A complement to current ESOL provision, the project also provided opportunities for locals and New Scots to share their cultures, languages and lives with each other in a welcoming, informal setting.

The project took place from January-June 2017. Four host organisations were selected to participate; Aberdeenshire Workers’ Education Association, Dundee International Women’s Centre, Midlothian Council and Renfrew YMCA.  Peer Educators were trained in facilitation activities, welcoming New Scots and modifying their language to communicate with non-native English speakers.  Each group carried out collective actions which allowed them to meet new people, learn about the local community and practise new languages.  Some examples of collective actions include:

  • ·         Aberdeenshire WEA: A baking event involving local women and Syrian New Scots.  Participants developed a recipe book which will be shared in the local community.  As a result, a partnership with a local community kitchen has been formed and participants will now meet regularly to cook together.
  • ·         Dundee International Women’s Centre: A group walk with local walking clubs and an introductory meeting with a community garden.  As a result, some non-native English speaking peers have now joined a local walking group and regularly attend the community garden.
  • ·         Midlothian Council: Syrian mothers and their children met regularly with local peers and a peer educator to attend sessions.  They arranged a number of collective actions with local people – including walk in local parks, meeting local parents and having a picnic on the beach.
  • ·         Renfrew YMCA: A group of young people was established.  After meeting with a number of community organisations, the group decided their collection action should be to plan, design and work on their own community garden.  The group also worked together to create vlogs and blogs to promote this garden.

A final event took place at Scottish Refugee Council on Thursday 22nd June to celebrate the achievements of all participants.  Peer Education Co-ordinators, Peer Educators and Peers travelled from across Scotland to attend the event and share their experiences with each other.  The project’s external evaluator, Lavinia Hirsu, presented her findings.

Overall, the project was well received and, even after such a short space of time, participants reported that they had increased their social connections, cross-cultural competence and confidence with using other languages.  It is hoped that funding can be secured to extend the project in the coming months.

The project  was managed by Emily Bryson, on secondment from her role as ESOL Lecturer at City of Glasgow College. For more information, the report can be downloaded here: Sharing Lives, Sharing Languages: A pilot peer education project for New Scots’ social and language integration – evaluation report June 2017

Chris Pettigrew
Author: Chris Pettigrew