Mabel Prieto Ariza
Mabel has a background in project management and auditing in the fields of Social Policy, International Development and Financial Services for more than 12 years. She has worked for the Spanish Government, the European Commission and the Private sector. She is a certified auditor and holds a High-Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Administration.
I am here to build a strong network of solidarity that shares knowledge, where every member learns from each other. A network that unlocks opportunities and contributes to building more tolerant and inclusive societies. Language Beyond Borders is about creating hope. As Noam Chomsky said “If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world.”
In the second in our series of blog posts featuring students and teachers, Mohammed Mahmoud Rahemah (Mo) and his teacher Nicky Andrews talk about their experiences. They met in May 2019, and have had two semesters of classes together. Here’s what they shared with us.
Mo arrived in the UK and established a Syrian brunch pop-up and catering company. His optimism is as abundant as his brunches and it’s impossible not to have your spirits lifted by his passion for sharing food, making friends and his determination to make a positive contribution in his new country.
On life and food
“I left Syria 4 years ago and came to the UK via Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Germany and France.
Now I’m a chef. Food is a great way of bringing people together and at my brunches you get to know who you’re eating with. I haven’t always been able to cook. I was studying Political Science before I had to leave Syria. My mum used to shoo me out of the kitchen with her flip flops! So, it’s funny because now I ring her up to ask her how to make something.
I have a lot of support in the UK. I am positive and smile because I want people to know that we came here to build our lives again, not to do nothing. Because I travelled through so many countries to get here, I’ve learnt a lot about people and met a lot of people.
I also work for a pizza place, so wherever there is food you can find me. In the future I want to visit my family but that will take at least 7 years. I also want to travel the world and do my brunches”.
“I had a Syrian friend, Omar, who I met in the Jungle in Calais, he told me ‘you need to be more confident, speak more in English.’ When I arrived the UK I signed up for Language Beyond Borders and met Nicky.
We became friends. I really like her personality and her classes. She understood me and because I liked her so much I called one of my brunch dishes, ‘English Class Eggs’ after her. Because of the classes with Nicky I am more confident and I know when I make a mistake. She’s amazing and I can’t wait for her and her husband to come to my brunch”.
If you fancy a great Syrian brunch you can find Mo and the team here: https://www.moseggs.co.uk/
On why Language Beyond Borders
“I had taken a CELTA course and was working in a language school teaching English to business people. But I was looking for something to give added purpose and to give something back to society. I came across Language Beyond Borders online and it was a great fit.”
“My first class with Mo felt a little awkward because I didn’t know what to expect. By the second class we were more chatty and it quickly felt like calling a friend. Early on, our classes were quite structured but over time they became more informal. The classes are now more conversational with corrections. Mo was always so busy that I gave up giving him homework but I do send notes after each class with new vocabulary and grammar. I was really pleased when he told me that he reads them and then tries to apply the learning in his daily conversations. He’s definitely improved: I saw an early promotional video for Mo’s eggs and his English is much better now than it was in the video.
From Mo I learnt about Syria from a human perspective. We really only know what we see in the news about the war. But from Mo I learnt about the landscapes, the culture and his happy childhood growing up there.
At first, I remember being shocked when he would talk about his experiences of bombings and the conditions he lived in whilst trying to find asylum. How he’d spent nearly a year trying to get out of Calais when they closed down the Jungle. Trying to hide underneath a lorry and hoping it would be ‘his day’ to succeed. I just couldn’t imagine what he’d been through.”
“I also learnt what it means to be resilient, positive and kind. Kindness is very much a part of the Syrian mindset. If a stranger on the street needs help you give it to them without a second thought.
Mo is always thinking towards the future, he has such a positive attitude and belief in himself. People in the Western world spend a lot of time and money searching for the secrets to ‘positive mindsets’ ‘living in the moment’ and personal resilience, but for Mo these things just come naturally. I think that maybe he taught me more than I taught him.”
“It’s not just about teaching language, but connecting to another human being“. Nicky, volunteer teacher.
We’re looking for qualified ESOL teachers, who would like to join our team of volunteer teachers for our first semester of 2020!
Who we work with
This year we’ve delivered online classes to students in Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Papua New Guinea, Ghana, and the UK, among others. Our partner organisations include Gaza Sky Geeks who works with Palestinians in Gaza & the West Bank teaching them to code and work online. We help with their English language skills so that they can pitch, interview, and work online in English.
We also work with sponsored refugees who are either living in refugee centres or surviving in third countries while waiting to be resettled in Canada. In addition we support resettled refugees in the UK who face barriers to access conventional ESOL courses due to a lack or shortage of provision. Our online classes enable them to better integrate in their new country and take full advantage of employment and educational opportunities available to them.
Support and training
All of our volunteer teachers complete a bespoke online training course. It covers the technical requirements as well as class content and provides guidance on working with people who have experienced trauma.
There is no set curriculum because we work to support the individual needs of the student. Some learners might be studying for IELTS, whilst others could be beginners or needing to improve their general English level.
“I really liked her classes, she understood me and I became more confident to speak English.” Mohammed, Student
Students also benefit from other online activities such as online tasks and chat groups between their weekly classes.
There are many benefits to becoming a volunteer:
- You’ll join an online community of passionate professionals
- benefit from ongoing CPD opportunities
- gain valuable online teaching experience
- receive a certificate of contribution at the end of a successful term.
Many of our teachers also tell us that they learnt what it really means to be a refugee. It’s also a rewarding and fulfilling experience to play a part in someone’s hope and to contribute to their success.
It takes a couple of hours a week, and you can do it from home. We can only do what we do because of teachers who freely give their time and skills, and for all those who do, we are full of gratitude.
You’ll find the volunteer application form here:
It’s hard to put into words how unique our teacher-student partnerships are. So, we decided to ask them about each other.
In the first of the series of blogs where we asked teachers and students to talk about their experiences, Language Beyond Borders volunteer teacher Silvina and student Khuloud talk about their time in class together. The classes began in September 2018 and they worked together for 8 months; they are still in touch.
Silvina on Khuloud
“Khuloud is a fantastic student, easy to teach and more motivated than any other student I’ve met. I felt there was an underlying level of respect and that she really appreciated the classes.
She has a serious long-term goal, which is to get to Canada, so she needs an *IELTS and stressed to me how important it was to her to progress. At first, she was really concerned about her level but over time there was a change in her: I saw her confidence grow.
I don’t know too much about her life, just what she chose to tell me, and I was mindful not to intrude because you never know what can trigger a memory. Despite her life being very different from mine, there is a bond between us. I’m not usually that open but her willingness to engage, and her openness with me, changed that.
The one-to-one nature of the class, the fact that there is no agenda and no boxes to tick, gives you, as a teacher, the freedom to work in a very personal way. It was just me and Khuloud. She’s a very creative person and into recycling, so I was able to create classes that used these interests. We also shared personal photographs and I would message her between classes too. She taught me about Syria, its culture and food.
I’m not officially teaching her anymore, but we keep in touch. Meeting her has enriched my life greatly. You can’t always relate to what you read in the newspapers and I don’t think what is happening is properly represented. With Khuloud I found that human connection.”
Silvina has a strong interest in human rights and a Masters in Public Policy that led her to study issues relating to refugees and asylum seekers, as well as EFL teaching credentials. She is a valued teacher and class coordinator. Silvina is from the UK. She is currently living in Milan.
Khuloud on Silvina
“I love this lady, she’s amazing, the classes always felt like chatting to a friend. She’s so kind and patient. She always told me I was doing a great job and if I had issues with something, we’d repeat it again and again.
After years of waiting to go to Canada, the dream was finally starting to become a reality, a friend told me, ‘you’ll do much better in Canada if you have English’.
So, I began studying English in Ghana, but the school was a long way from my home and with lots of responsibilities on my shoulders, I just couldn’t continue.
During the first class with Silvina I told her I’m a writer, a journalist and Arabic teacher and I want to articulate and communicate complicated issues! One of the things she did was help me to stop thinking in Arabic and to use the English I have, even if I didn’t have all the words I needed. I always felt confident that she wanted to support me and that she understood me. We had really nice classes together. I’d been to institutions to study English before, but because you’re in a class there aren’t always the same opportunities to talk. With Silvina I had a lot of opportunity to talk.
Before meeting Silvina, my writing was better than my speaking. But now I can think in English and I can say what I want. Now I say to my Arabic, ‘Shut up, I want to think in English.’ We discussed a lot of issues! I learnt a lot of vocabulary and I know how to use it. My confidence has grown too. In class I made mistakes and Silvina helped me to realise how to correct them myself”.
Khuloud is a journalist. She came to Ghana as a refugee from Syria in 2011 with her husband and two daughters. Before the end of the year she will leave for Canada.
(*IELTS is the International English Language Testing System for language proficiency)
Happy World Teachers’ Day to all of our volunteers!
We are so proud of our teachers, of their skill and dedication to what they do, but also of the diversity among our team.
We have teachers of all ages, from 18 to 71, living in and hailing from countries all over the world!
Our volunteers come from 42 countries, 23% are British, 12% from the US, 5% are Indian and 5% are Australian. We are also honoured to have teachers from Spain, Palestine, South Africa, Morocco, and Romania on our team, and many others!
Together, we live across 51 countries! 9% in Spain, and 9% in UK, with other popular countries being Morocco, Mexico, Portugal, Argentina and Brazil.
Thank you to our wonderful team, and to all teachers everywhere, today and every day!
We are celebrating that Khuloud and Sahel, who were part of our very first group of students back in Spring of 2018, have just passed their interview for permanent settlement in Canada.
They might get there in just 6 weeks after years of waiting. There are a few more things for them to sort out but it looks like all systems are go for Khuloud and family! We are so delighted for them! Khuloud, Sahel and their 2 young daughters have been in Ghana since the start of the Syrian conflict.
Sahel is a talented graphic artist and Khuloud is a journalist. Sahel was interrogated at the start of the conflict, after which the family went to Ghana to visit relatives and give themselves some time away from the problems. Thinking that things would quieten down, they received news while away that their house had been ransacked and that it wasn’t safe for the family to return.
They have been waiting for the chance to continue their lives in peace and safety, and to provide their daughters with a future of hope, joy, and opportunities. We wish them all the best and admire their resilience. We know they will thrive in Canada.
I met Ramtin in person today! A year and a half ago he was part of our very first group of students. During this time, I’ve felt his highs and lows and finally, he was granted asylum in Spain.
As soon as he had his flight ticket he sent the details to me. He was to arrive in Madrid at 10:35 am, I could go to the airport to welcome him! The night before his journey we exchanged messages and I wished him a good flight.
Today I went to the airport to wait for him. He phoned me from a Spanish phone number and told me he was going to León city, that he wouldn’t stay in Madrid. I reassured him he would be fine there. Then he passed the phone to the social worker from the organisation that will take care of him in his new city. They told me that he was ok, completing the process of his entry to Spain – at the other end of the airport: I ran determined to see him. I phoned again to check where they were: still waiting for the police checks.
They told me there were 7 refugees in Ramtins group and it would take a while. I waited for another hour and phoned again. This time they told me they were outside the airport but they had left by a different door. I asked for directions to their location: I ran, again. In the distance, I could see the bus, and they were about to get on it. Ramtin spotted me from afar and he ran to me! We hugged and smiled. What a moment!
It was so exciting, so emotional, one that will stay with me forever. I was so happy for him! He started telling me that he was going to another city again and that he wanted to stay in Madrid and that he needed to learn the language. I told him he’d be fine and you’ll learn the language, get a job and then you can move to the city where that job is.
We hugged again several times! I met the social workers and exchanged numbers, I told them we had been friends for the last 1.5 year and that he was one of our first students. The caseworkers were excited to see us meet. It was brief and all too soon they left, but it was enough to see him, make him feel welcome.
We’ll meet again soon I’m sure.
The Autumn term in Language Beyond Borders has officially started! Our first group of students from Khalil in the West Bank, Palestine, started studying with us last week and they are off to a great start!
But what do they think of their classes?
“It was great, I loved it!” Rawan, Student.
“I have to say I’m amazed at the calibre of student, their English was good and they all had terrific personalities!” Nick, Conversation Partner.
“I kept smiling for a couple of hours after I’d finished the class on Sunday!” Alexandra, Teacher.
We’d like to thank all involved for the hard work that has gone into these classes, from students and teachers, to Class Coordinators and partners, everyone involved plays a small part in improving the lives of people unfairly impacted by conflict or fleeing persecution.
We can’t wait to see how much progress will have been made by these students when they complete their level assessments at the end of the term!
This term, the starting dates of the various groups are staggered: in a few weeks a second group in Palestine, this time in Gaza, will start their classes; after that, our three UK programmes will get off to a start; and then our privately sponsored students, from Ghana to Papua New Guinnea and many places inbetween, will start their classes.
Good luck to everyone this term!
Anayet started studying with his LBB teacher, Dawn, in early May of this 2019. Anayet lives in a refugee camp for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, where he teaches English to the children in the UNHCR-founded primary school.
What he is learning in class with Dawn doesn’t just help him, it empowers future generations of Rohingya to be able to tell their stories to the world. Part of that story is today: the 2nd International Day of Remembrance for the Rohingya Genocide.
Anayet has taken part in a rally for the event and has organised a public forum so that those affected can tell their stories and work together to support their own community. We have watched as many of the issues still affecting our students fade from public view: the Syrian conflict; Manus Island; those lives lost in the mediterranean; and the Rohingya tragedy.
The media spotlight may have moved on but the crisis isn’t over for many of those directly affected. We fully support Anayet in his work to get the word out and tell the world about the plight of the Rohingya.
It is almost a year since we first connected our volunteer teachers and conversation partners with students kept in detention on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.
For months, we have witnessed our students’ struggle to cope with injustice and to keep hope alive, and we did our best to support them with much needed language skills and a human connection.
A few months ago we wrote a statement about this situation and asked Hassan Al Kontar, a high profile refugee and advocate, now in Canada, for help with raising awareness of how critical the situation had become. He mentioned working on a massive project related to just that.
This project is Operation #NotForgotten. They have now launched a campaign to raise 3.3 million dollars to rescue almost 200 people – refugees and asylum seekers trapped for years in PNG – by using the Canadian private sponsorship programme.
A beautiful idea from an expert in (re)gaining hope and addressing the world via any medium available. This CAN work! Join a global initiative & donate any amount for Operation #NotForgotten.
Daniel has safely completed his swim for Language Beyond Borders and has written to us the following message. His words are powerful and worth the read. We can’t thank him enough! “Hello everyone again! I’m now recovered from the extraordinary experience of swimming across the Strait of Gibraltar.
5 hours and 17 minutes to swim 17.3 km, diverted from the point of arrival because of strong currents, and with the water at 14 ºC. A very choppy sea right from the start put the whole challenge in jeopardy. Luckily I could finish, although with quite a lot of effort. I can’t help thinking that many people, even without knowing how to swim some of them, can get into a precarious boat trying to reach our shores…
Now that I know first-hand the maritime conditions of the Strait, I’m deeply shocked. I want to thank every one of you for your support and contribution to the exceptional mission of Language Beyond Borders.
In the moments that I was losing strength and my head was taking over, the personal commitment that I had with each of you fuelled me to keep swimming. You were part of this adventure. Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your help and the chance LBB has given me to raise awareness of their work, it’s been an honour.
A big hug and hope we’ll be in touch soon. There are still many challenges to overcome! ” Daniel will keep the crowdfunding open til the 22nd of August.
Support his efforts and our work if you can. https://www.gofundme.com/StraitGibraltar