The annual Suffolk Adult Learner Awards, which was set up by University Campus Suffolk and Suffolk County Council, showcases the hard work and dedication of adult learners, volunteers and teachers within the local community.
During the awards, ICM’s Community Champions were recognised for their outstanding achievements and work within the local community. Made up of over 10 different nationalities from different ethnic backgrounds – some being economic migrants, others refugees or asylum seekers – their desire to give something back to the Ipswich community is what unites them all.
Many of the Community Champions were ICM’s ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) students, who developed their English skills within the classes and then decided to continue working with the charity as volunteers.
A lot of the Community Champions faced personal struggles, and had described feelings of being lost and feeling alone whilst being in a country far from their home and cultures they were used to. As a consequence, many spoke about experiencing low confidence and a lack of self-esteem. However, since becoming part of ICM, they have described how being Community Champions had helped to provide them with a sense of purpose and belonging.
The Community Champions have had a massive impact on the health and wellbeing of an enormous group of people who are often disempowered, ignored and neglected by society. By helping translate important medical documents and letters from authorities, the Community Champions also played a vital role during the pandemic by spreading information and raising awareness of lockdown procedures and how to stay safe. Their hard work and commitment makes them worthy winners of the Suffolk Adult Learners Health and Wellbeing Award.
Bahni, who has been volunteering with ICM since 2018, won two awards; one for being an ICM Community Champion, as well as being awarded the runner up award for Volunteer of the Year.
Since 2018, Bahni has volunteered twice a week, helping others improve their English skills, both in person, and when covid struck, also virtually. Unfortunately, during the pandemic, Bahni contracted the virus, and ended up in intensive care at Ipswich Hospital. However, she was eager to return to volunteering as soon as she was well enough and even from her hospital bed, Bahni maintained contact with the ICM volunteers group.
Selma’s journey with ICM began with her attending ESOL classes. After arriving in the UK from Algeria, Selma knew little English and struggled with confidence. However, she has since become a classroom assistant and helps others who were in her position. She now plays a critical role within the community with her translation and interpretation skills with those who speak Arabic. This has been vital with Syrian refugees, who have little or no formal education.
Selma speaks openly about how, when she first came to the UK, she found it extremely difficult to settle since the loss of her home, family and work compounded her feelings of loneliness. Since becoming a Community Champion, Selma’s confidence has flourished, emphasising just how important being a volunteer and a member of this group is for those feeling lost.