Well done to everyone involved in the Suffolk Adult Learners’ Awards a few weeks ago. We are so proud of so many of our learners this year for their nominations and wins! Congratulations especially to our Community Champions (Arkadiusz Wisniewski, Arya Samin, Banhimitra Ghosh, Elizangela Frietas, Evaldo A. Rodrigues, Isha Beevi Mohamed Mlickeen, Mohammad Mobarak Hossain, Monika Puchala, Neena Pandey, Nuray Mutlu Shen, Selma Magano Angula, and Selma Guelil) for winning the Health and Wellbeing Impact Award, Selma Guelil for winning Volunteer of the Year, and to Banhimitra Ghosh for getting runner up for Volunteer of the Year.
So many of our learners have incredible stories, and we’re so lucky that they want to share them with us. Below read a bit about the experiences of four of our Community Champions.
Mobarak moved from Bangladesh in 2009, his fiancé moved here first, and they waited for each other for 7 years. He described feeling like an atom at that time, gaining a positive and negative charge. The joy of being finally reunited with his fiancé but also missing his parents who remain in Bangladesh. Knowing little English, he enrolled in ICMs pre-entry English classes. Going from strength to strength he now holds a grade 6 English GCSE and is studying teacher training with the Cambridge Teaching School Network, working towards becoming a secondary school mathematics teacher. He was a teacher in Bangladesh for 12 years, and ICM have helped him to gain the qualifications and confidence to transfer those skills over to Ipswich. This journey has not been without struggle, as Mobarak notes he has cried many times along the way. He has faced mental and physical ill-health and come up against discrimination and prejudice. Along with the constant responsibility of supporting his wife and young daughter, this has proven a tough track to tread, but it has never stopped him. Mobarak volunteered as a teaching assistant for ICM, working in a class with primarily Syrian students who he helped to learn English for the first time. This experience of working alongside ICMs fantastic tutors has allowed him to learn new methods of teaching which he reveals are vastly different to the ones used in Bangladesh. Linda was his first teacher, and he feels he has learnt so much from her than Linda will always stand for “learning, light, love and life” in his mind. When he first joined ICM, he felt that they were his parents because they taught him so much. Now he teaches himself, recently studying technical vocabulary from maths textbooks for 6 months so that he could get into his teacher training course. Mobarak is passionate about the good work ICM does and feels that it is so important for money to be put in the right place so that organisations like ICM can change the world. He hopes that in the future they can “help more Mobaraks’”.
Monika moved to England in 2014 with the goal of giving her children a better future. She recalls visiting Ipswich before the move, to see if she could manage moving here. They left a snowy winter in Poland in March and arrived to what felt like the start of summer, and with her kids playing in short sleeved t-shirts in Christchurch park, the start of their new life. The family took the plunge and decided to move, ensuring the safe transport of their dog with them. She hit the ground running and enrolled in three different English classes to try and catch different learning techniques from them all. She found this a remarkably interesting way to observe the new language but favoured the ICM classes and began getting more involved. Monika was one of the original Community Champions, before that name even existed. She jokes that she has helped so many with medical appointments that the GP receptionist and a hospital nurse recognise her. With another volunteer role as a teaching assistant for ICM, she has been able to share her knowledge and experiences to many people in the community. Monika believes that small things can really change lives. The first lesson she gives to Ipswich newcomers is to wave at buses to get on them, and to press the stop button to get off. Without this small piece of information, a crucial opportunity can be missed, so sharing seemingly simple wisdoms can hugely impact people’s wellbeing. She describes feeling like a small baby when you first move to England, everything is so much bigger than you and you must discover the world around you. This is how ICM helps to empower so many, as experiences are shared in classes and workshops which allow people to feel “grown up” and in control again. Monika thrives on showing people the bright side of life and shares her rather unorthodox method of getting used to hearing her voice in another language – by speaking English to the vegetables in her kitchen. She has now achieved a grade 5 in GCSE English Language and credits ICM and volunteering for changing her life. This is through education but also through the family bonds forged with other ICM staff and students. Although she misses her family in Poland, she has a family in Ipswich too, and loves to connect both countries traditions. Now that she is satisfied the goal of a better future for her children is achieved, she looks to the future for the next way to change her life.
Eric moved to Ipswich in 2005 but his journey with ICM began in 2016. After facing a long bout of ill-health, he was made redundant as a critical disease and other complications left him unfit for work. This was a devastating blow and went on to lead to mental health struggles as he became more isolated. His health condition meant making appointments with Ipswich hospital was a necessity, but this was difficult due to his limited English at the time. He also wanted to improve his English to open new employment opportunities. A colleague told him about ICM which at the time did not have a website and he got information from a small leaflet on a window. At first it was extremely difficult, as he battled mental health challenges to come to the classes where he could only speak a few words of English. However, he progressed quickly with the help of Linda and Janet who he says are so generous with their time and can always find a way to teach you anything. Eric reveals that Linda is like a local celebrity, as he is constantly meeting people in the community who have been taught by her years ago. Meeting people and making friends through classes and the volunteering he does has really changed Eric’s life around. It is a consensus with Eric and his friends that if you have any problem, ICM will find a way to solve it. Anything you need, they can help. For example, they run workshops on how different systems in the UK work, such as the NHS, schools and bank accounts. This notion is returned by Eric, who has the philosophy “if I can help, I will help”. At first, he needed help communicating with the GP and bank; now he helps his family and friends to do this. For example, he communicated with a friend’s workplace when they had covid, and he cares for his mother who requires hospital appointments. As a confident English speaker with an entry level 3 qualification, he has plans to open his own Polish food business. He is a skilled chef and particularly loves making dumplings. He even smokes his own sausages and makes sourdough bread for his friends every week, using his 7-year-old sourdough starter. Eric reflects that “from my heart, I feel that ICM is like a second family to me” and he thanks them for changing his life in every way.
Arya moved to Ipswich in 2014 and began her journey with ICM in September 2015, when she started attending English classes. As a primary school mathematics teacher in Iraqi Kurdistan, she had more practice in reading and writing English than speaking it. She felt shy when speaking English at first but quickly developed her skills, passing many assessments and now holding an entry level 3 certificate. In 2016 she began volunteering as a teaching assistant for ICM, helping other students to pass the same assessments that she had done. A dedicated volunteer, she worked around 3 days a week, all the while improving her own English. Arya likens English to a river, a continual flow of knowledge which sweeps you away as it becomes more and more complex. With the increased difficulty, can at times come humility, and this is how friendships are made in classes as everyone laughs and learns together. As well as these friendships, Arya counts ICM as a family to her, with tutor Janet feeling “like my mum”. This level of comfort and connection is so valued because she deeply misses her family back in Iraq, who she has not seen for 7 years. With continued effort and involvement with ICM over lockdown, she has recently taken her entry level 3 mathematics exam. The next step is GCSE English, and then the dream of going to University so that she can become an early year’s mathematics teacher. Arya feels she has gained so much from ICM, and ICM is equally lucky to have become family with Arya as she has given generously back to the community by helping teach English to others like her.
Thank you to the National Lottery Community Fund for providing vital funding for projects such as our Community Champions.