British Gas volunteer support allowing Foundation to work with more ESOL learners
Leeds Rhinos Foundation's ESOL programme which supports people from the local community to learn English as their second language has received invaluable support from British Gas volunteers over the past year
The charity's ESOL provision, which takes referrals from the local refuges, the Department of Work and Pensions and through word of mouth, has grown considerably since 2014 when the Foundation was accepted onto Leeds City Council's Framework, the Adult Community Learning Programme's provider list.
With the number of learners coming to the sessions at the TryZone Education Centre as high as 15 leaners at any one time from a range of ethnicities and countries, the programme has relied heavily on support from British Gas' team of volunteers.
Al Topal, who works at British Gas' Leeds offices at Newbridge House has volunteered for programme since October 2016 and has worked closely with the Adult Learning team at TryZone to support the learners at the centre.
"The role can be challenging if you've got a lot of people in, where you're needing to work with a group that has vastly different levels of English," said Al.
"Occasionally the way the learners interact with each other can also be challenging as well, so getting used to knowing how to help different people work and how you can help them understand the course content in the most effective way is very important," he added.
Having originally applied to work on one of the projects working with primary school children, Al instead has built up a strong relationship with the charity's adult education team along with many of the attendees on the programme - experience which he applies to his role with British Gas.
"Any sort of practice with coaching and helping people is always good, where you are getting the opportunity to teach people stuff and find a way to impart some knowledge.
"It can be very challenging to do that at times as I only speak English, so it can be hard to get stuff across but it does give you those skills of explaining things to people and relating to the material, which helps in any walk of life and can certainly help me in my role with British Gas."
Adult Learning Officer at Leeds Rhinos Foundation Jaci Hawkins, who coordinates the programme said:
"Due to the success of the programme and the number of referrals we are taking in at the Foundation this year, support from British Gas staff has really helped us to not only provide more one on one support for the learners but improved the quality of our delivery as well."
Al has now signed up three consecutive cohorts of the programme having seen the benefit of being a volunteer with Leeds Rhinos Foundation and will continue to support learners going forward.
"Seeing the benefit that these guys get from it, it does make you feel good about coming in and volunteering, it makes you feel like you are doing some good for people, that your life isn't completely selfish, spending a few hours a week doing something for the benefit of others, said Al."