We all need to be able to communicate to others in the community that we live in. A language barrier can be a huge hurdle for people to overcome in their daily lives. A dedicated group of volunteers assist with free English classes to help people start to interact with others more easily.
The English beginner to advanced classes have been based in the Blockhouse Bay Community Centre since 2012. They were started as an overflow from the free English and Integration Classes held in the New Lynn Community Centre that have since terminated. As the classes are free, BHB Community Centre has supported them by not charging for room hire which has been an enormous help. As founder and coordinator, Shayne Walters has been the key person leading the team and keeping the classes running.
Students can be migrants, refugees or even long stay tourists. Their nationalities have included Japanese, Brazil, Chile, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Somalia, Russia, Uruguay India Pakistan and Kazakhstan as well as from Africa and Europe. When the volunteer tutor does not understand the student’s native language, then they teach using the full immersion method of English only. Drawing and acting skills are really useful to communicate with full immersion. Shayne’s degree majored in Chinese and Product Design, so he can communicate fluently with Chinese students.
While caring for his father in his later years, first at home and then at Powley House, Shayne started volunteering in his spare time. He has now been a dedicated volunteer for many years. He says that people volunteering to help with teaching English can get just as much out of the classes as the students do. First, there is the satisfaction of human interaction. Some volunteers are retirees wanting to do something meaningful. Others may be looking for paid employment. They see volunteering as a bridge to employment and Shayne proudly confirms that those volunteers have been 100% successful in finding paid work.
The numbers of students and volunteers fluctuates and is currently lower due to travel restrictions. There are other English language classes available but there are few free options. Shayne likes keeping this class neutral and also free of political or commercial influence.
To get involved, contact Shayne on 027 8577488