Creative English Featured Member: Oasis Centre

This week, I had the opportunity to speak with one of our most established Creative English hubs who have been delivering the course for four years. The Oasis Centre in Luton is run by Gill, a community worker from the local area. She runs the centre as part of the Stopsley Project, an initiative started in Luton by the Stopsley Baptist Church.

The Oasis Centre is a house on a residential street that is well known in the area as a place of friendship, of safety, and of learning. Initially starting as a drop-in centre for ladies with pre-school children, they now also act as an advice centre and an advocate to the council and other such organisations for those in need of help. Their main output, however, is their Creative English classes.

Though the area is predominantly Pakistani, the Creative English classes featured a far greater variety of nationalities, including Bengali, Afghan, Moroccan, Somali and Eastern European learners as well. This is largely due to the relationships that Oasis has with local adult education provision and the local primary school, both of whom refer people to Creative English at Oasis. Gill has found it interesting watching these women grow in confidence and relationship with each other through the classes. She told us that the best friendship they’d seen recently was between a Pakistani lady who had been in the country for a year and a Romanian lady who had just arrived. They couldn’t really understand each other yet but were already the best of friends.

Gill says of Creative English:

‘We are here to help them to move on in their lives in England. Unless they feel as though they belong and are in a community, they are not going to learn. The primary focus is to let them feel at ease, as though friends and family with each other and then English will come.

When asked for a success story, Gill told me of an Afghan lady who had been coming to the classes for years. She had initially been very quiet and was reluctant to speak English around other English speakers. Earlier in the year, she had to go to the hospital for a blood test. Her husband was unable to take her and she insisted she could make the journey alone, but her son said that he would take her instead. When they reached the hospital, he had dropped her at the entrance, preparing to go park the car, when she told him that he could go home – that she would go to the appointment by herself, and find her way home on the bus. When she proudly told her story to the class, one of the other ladies said that she had to do the same and asked if she could accompany her. The Afghan lady simply told her, “No! If I can do this, so can you!”

Heather Ratnarajah

About Heather Ratnarajah

Heather Ratnarajah is Team Coordinator for the whole team at FaithAction. She ensures good communication and understanding amongst the various sub-teams regarding current workload and availability. She acts as administrative support for all ongoing projects, with particular focus on the Creative English programme. She also acts as support and a point of connection for the numerous Creative English hubs across the UK, ensuring they have everything they require to run classes effectively. She is part of the team acting as Secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society and enjoys the work they do organising important meetings and events at Westminster.