Online ESOL Teaching

Posted April 22, 2021 No Comments

Below is a blog written by one of our wonderful ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teachers, Christie. We wanted to share it, simply to highlight the *huge* amount of work that goes into making these online lessons effective. Our teachers have made an incredible effort this year to develop new teaching skills, new lesson content and coach their students to develop the technological skills to access their online classes. And it’s not just the teachers who have had to adjust and learn a whole new set of skills; it’s also been a really big step for a lot of our learners. They have had so much to deal with and adapt to during the last year – they have faced financial and employment insecurity, had to home-school their children, worry about the health of family and friends in other countries and yet they still dedicate hours of their week to learning how to access zoom so that they can develop their language skills at home. It is massively out of their comfort zone and it’s a real testament to their resilience that they commit to it anyway! We’ve also loved to see the way that friends and members of the community have been willing to share their knowledge and help others get to grips with apps like Zoom, Teams and other online platforms!

– –

There are numerous challenges getting started in teaching ESOL learners online.  So picture me on the phone with ‘B’, whose only device is a phone.

Me: You need to install the Zoom app.  Z-o-o-m.

B:  No understand.

Me: App store? Install Zoom? (I use Whatsapp to send him a photo of the app on my screen)

B:  Ohhh…. (he struggles and mutters and asks incoherent questions while I wait. 20 minutes go by.  He is not successful)

B: Go my friend, he help. (he hangs up. I was glad to know he has a friend.  An hour goes by.)

N:  Hello, I’m B’s friend. How can I help?

Me: (really relieved to deal with a bilingual Kurd.  I explain.)

N: Ok.  (he struggles and mutters and talks to B in Kurdish.  30 minutes go by. It turns out N does not know what to do.)

Me: Ok, N, please stay there with B. I’m going to find help.  (I call my co-worker Jonathan who knows a lot of Kurds, asking for a number for someone bilingual and up on their technology.  Soon get a call from Ali.  I explain.  He knows the other guys.  He calls them. Another hour goes by.)

N: (calling from his car outside a supermarket where he had taken B to do some shopping).  We did it!  We have Zoom in B’s phone!  (Another 15 minutes go by.  When B comes back to the car, we do a test run so he will know how to use the app. Great to see B smiling from the back seat.  I praise the efforts of everyone involved. It only took four hours.)

I had to find a bilingual supporter for each person in the class, either someone in the home or at least reachable by phone, and work with that person to help the student get comfortable with this way of learning. One great side benefit is that zoom lessons have introduced several young Kurds, new arrivals living in different areas, who are all isolated and stuck at home. They use the break times to get to know each other.

Two of the Kurdish boys started well but in the third lesson they were lolling on the floor, faces half in, half out of the frame, I didn’t have a translator available, so I showed what I wanted them to do with pictures:

Thank the Lord, students are connected, support is provided, and they are learning remotely, in this time when we cannot be in the same space.

Christie Murphy – ESOL teacher

April 2021

Dancing with Thieves – Book Review

Posted March 2, 2021 No Comments

Dancing With Thieves by Cally Magalhães

ICN’s heart and purpose is to come alongside people that have been internationally displaced and help them in the practical, social, legal and more areas of life encountered as a result of their international migration. People from other nations have come to our nation and we seek to help.

In contrast, ‘Dancing With Thieves’ tells the story of people internally displaced in their own country (in this case Brazil) and how God led a British missionary to travel to that country to help them!

‘Dancing With Thieves’ is a riveting and compassionately written autobiography of a missionary called Cally Magalhães. Through professional and personal highs (getting into a top British ballet school) and lows (her dream of becoming a ballet dancer ended due to curvature of the spine, a marriage ending in divorce) she found Jesus, became a Christian and her life’s direction was changed.

God put the plight of street children on her heart and after several years of training and wonderful confirmations of God’s call, in 1999 she set off in faith to begin a new chapter of her life helping the street children of Brazil!

It was not easy! But God was with her protecting and helping her as she began working in the ‘favelas’ (groups of shacks or houses illegally built on unused land. They are often in dangerous conditions around rivers, sewage, exposed electricity wires, rubbish heaps & all sorts of flies, rats, and rodents. Just like a hotel they are rated on a star system 1 to 5!)

Cally’s heart breaks for the children and families that she meets. The deprivation that they live in and the trauma of their lives. She lovingly comes alongside, befriends, and helps them practically with food and where possible new accommodation. She sees the miraculous provision of finance by God in all of these initiatives.

Cally goes on to work in youth prisons, devise a pioneering program called ‘psychodrama’ (utilising all of the singing, dancing and ballet training from her youth!) that enabled offenders to feel and grasp the emotions of those affected by their crimes in role playing various different characters impacted by their crimes. Eyes are opened, lives are transformed and reoffending rates plummet!

‘Dancing With Thieves’ is a book that stirred my heart and eyes of faith! It reminds, challenges and confirms the truth to those of us involved in ICN that regardless of the cause of a person’s displacement God is a lover of people & sends His people to help restore lives. As we participate in that call we find, like Cally, that it feels, ‘ like [we] were born to do what [we] do. It isn’t a job. It’s a privilege’.

Daniel Wilkinson; SCSA Support Worker

04 March 2021

When does an ESOL lesson begin? When does it end?

Posted May 21, 2020 No Comments


If you were tempted to say 9.30 in the morning until 12pm, you’d be so wrong! Any teacher knows that a lesson begins long before any learners arrive; it begins with planning and preparation. How do we plan? What do we prepare? Why not just turn to a page in a course book and use that? More good questions.  

At ICN, our teachers know that their lessons need to be relevant and useful if we are to achieve our aim of helping learners to find jobs, access higher education and manage their daily lives here in the UK. We need to give our learners a solid foundation of the English language that can be built on and used to enable them to access all aspects of life here. To this end, teachers look for and create resources that are interesting and engaging. Our learners come with different learning styles – some enjoy hands on activities and games, others learn by reading, others by listening, so resources must reflect these needs.

Spikey profiles also need to be considered- “Spikey who?” I hear you ask. “What’s he got to do with it?” Well, it’s not a person and it has everything to do with making a successful lesson! Learners have different educational experiences, from no formal schooling at all to university degrees, and different levels in the four skills: speaking, listening, reading and writing. I have met learners who are able to hold coherent conversations but can’t read, others who can read but don’t understand what they’ve read, others who can understand what is said but can’t reply or join in a conversation. They have spikey profiles, strong in one skill and lacking in another. Our teachers are very skilled in adapting their lessons to meet the needs and abilities of each member of their class – and that requires planning and preparation.

OK, so the lesson begins with planning, but surely it ends at 12pm? Wrong again! Now begins the reflective process. Our teachers look back on the lesson to see what went well and what didn’t. They ask themselves some searching questions: did everyone take away something useful from that lesson? Who was struggling and with what? How can they be supported in the next lesson? Who was flying? How can they be more challenged in the next lesson? How can learning that took place today be built on in the next lesson? How much reinforcement of language presented in this lesson will be needed in the next lesson? When can I have a coffee? You get the idea! It’s a circular process where one lesson leads into the next, and the next lesson looks back at the previous one.

At ICN, we have teachers who are able to incorporate all this into their teaching and who are totally committed to bringing out the best in each and every one of their learners. That is why I can say with very confidence that we have an amazing, professional, dedicated, talented and caring ESOL team. Simply the Best! 

Fiona Marlow – ESOL Department Manager 

21 May 2020 

A Day in the Life of … an Immigration Advisor

Posted May 14, 2020 No Comments

James Davies wrote this piece in 2016 – long before lockdown! He has since retired from ICN, but his wonderful description perfectly captures what it is like to work at ICN. The routine, the unpredictability, and the joy of being able to share with our clients both in their sorrows and in their rejoicing.

Alarm. Tea & Bible. Breakfast. See my wife off to work. Dog up to Taskers Meadow. Car and ferry to Bournemouth. 

The ICN staff convene at 9 and have a few minutes of prayer to commit the day to the Lord and seek His wisdom for all we will face. Then it is look at the diary to see who is expected, get out the relevant files, deal with any immediate messages or emails. 

Appointments include: 

In the middle of the morning the post arrives. Rejoicing around the office that a Tibetan that we have been standing with for seven years has won an appeal and is likely to be able to stay. Sadness that an Iranian has been refused a travel document – I put the papers on one side to look at in detail later to see if the decision can be challenged. A letter from the Home Office asking for extra information for someone to support his application made a couple of months ago. 

All the while there are phone calls from other local organisations, or prospective clients with complex questions asking for “just two minutes of time – it’ll be very quick”; the buzz from the English class upstairs, and from the child whose parents are seeking help in the next room; grabbing and being grabbed by colleagues with questions – as none of us know everything, but between us we know a lot. 

I nip out mid-afternoon to see a friend, with whom I spend a regular hour each week studying Mark’s gospel.

Back to catch up with some paperwork – never finished. Some of the most productive time is after other staff have left and I can work through things in quietness. 

Then it’s the ferry. Supper. Catch up with my wife’s day. Walk the dog on the Downs. Bit of television. Bath & bed. 

James Davies – Senior Immigration Advisor (now retired)

14 May 2020

From Small Seeds…

Posted May 7, 2020 No Comments

Yesterday I planted some purple sunflower seeds in my garden which I had been given in the Autumn. I looked up how to plant them and followed the instructions, choosing a sunny spot in my garden, and watering them in. Now I wait, in the hope and expectation that they will grow tall and strong in the weeks to come, and eventually bear nourishing seed. Although I love flowers and gardens in general, I am rather a fair weather gardener, and often find that in the busyness of daily life our small patch of Eden gets neglected. How wonderful now to have the time and space to slow down and reflect on all the natural beauty which God has blessed us with, especially in these prolonged days of glorious sunshine. 

Across the world nations and peoples have an unprecedented opportunity to re-evaluate the true meaning and purpose of life, to rediscover who and what is most important, to fully appreciate all those who work so hard with minimal recognition to provide the services we so often take for granted. 

So with the families we support at ICN, many fathers who work long hours on low wages in order to support their families and establish a settled life in their adopted country, now have an opportunity to rest and recuperate and to engage with their children in a new way. Mothers who carry the responsibility for running the home are fully occupied in providing nourishing meals for their families, and doing their best to support their children’s school learning and to keep boredom at bay.  

As the month of Ramadan progresses, we pray for our Muslim friends and ask God to bless them especially in these days of physical separation from loved ones, to bring them comfort and peace, that God would draw near to them in a new way as they seek to honour and please Him. 

May we follow their example, and use this time to draw closer to God ourselves, to make space in our lives to hear His voice, as the clamour and demands of 21st century British life are temporarily on hold, and we can hear the birds singing again and have time to smell the flowers in the garden. Let us wait expectantly to see the seeds that have been sown begin to grow and bear fruit in our lives and in the lives of those we care about. 

Rosalie Buchanan – Women and Families’ Support Worker 

07 May 2020 

A day in the life of a SCSA Support Worker during lockdown

Posted April 30, 2020 No Comments

*SCSA = Separated Children Seeking Asylum. Written in the 2nd week of ‘lockdown’.  

Tuesday 31st March 2020 

9am – My day of work starts by joining in a staff zoom call; eleven of us today. We (whoever is in the office) always pray at the start of a working daycommitting our time and actions to the Lord praying for strength, guidance and wisdom for specific situations and people. What has been lovely about this lockdown time is that more staff (people who perhaps are not usually present at 9 o’clock for whatever reason) can now join virtually together. We are sharing more from the Bible of things that we have read and personally found strength, encouragement and help from in these surreal times.  

9.20am – check and deal with any emails, then I read through the personal statement of one of our young people who is applying for a bursary and hoping to go to university this year.  

9.45am  I have organised a video call to support with her application process. This begins with a comedy moment of each of us turning our devices over several times until we realise that for whatever reason we would both be seeing each other on our sides. We carry on tilting our head at intervals whilst speaking. There’s nothing like a national lockdown to make you realise that you are at the limits of your technical ability. Who knew that you could share your document over the internet and edit it in real time for both parties to see? I really am feeling older by the second!  

When not in a national state of emergency, I sometimes take this particular young person for bubble tea. So, when we chat, I gain some advice about making bubble tea for my daughter at home. Apparently brown sugar and condensed milk is the secret 

We speak about how trains are now only for key workers and about how shopping in the local supermarkets is going with new social distancing rules. Her online college work is going ok and she can attend online lessons successfullyMost of the young people we support are in education, so making sure that they are all able to access this virtually has been of key importance.  

I arrange that I would go into the office tomorrow to print the application form and personal statement so that I can drop them off with her to fill in. I’ll go back to the office and work from there for a couple of hours before I pick up the completed forms so that I can scan them in and send them on her behalf.  

We have two youngsters in that building so I must remember to take some electric cards so that they can top up their electric.  

10.45am – A couple more emails that have come in need filingThere can usually be a steady stream of correspondence, but emails are getting fewer by the day as appointments that can’t happen virtually are gradually being cancelled. 

Currently, we have ten young people aged 16 to 20 years old under ICN care supported by mecolleague and our managerThere are also a sizeable group of other SCSA’s in Bournemouth and Poole who we often work with, supporting in health and legal appointments at the social workers request. As a team, we work quite closely with social services and know that I shall miss the more relational side of my job both with the young people and other professionals.  

ICN is a hive of activity on most weekdays where it is not unusual for someone previously under our care to drop by for some support – ‘Where can I look for a job?’, ‘How do I apply for a travel document?’, ‘Look at my foot, what do you think this is?’ I love the variety; we joke about the many hats which we wear, doctor, dentist, pharmacist, removal worker, travel expert, nutritionist, cleaner, handyman, advisor, teacher.   

11am – My manager calls, and we talk about work for the day and the following weekWe decide who will send which report. We fill in reports for each young person under our care which details all appointments and support that we give surrounding health, education, legal processes and their emotional well-being. These then get sent to each corresponding social worker or personal advisor (if the youngster is over 18) at the end of the month and are a good record that we can refer to. 

We also talk about the challenges of working in small flats with no separate space set aside as office space and how to manage the same area for work, rest and family life. We don’t really have an answer; the whole country is adjusting to a new normal, but it’s nice to be honest about how we feel. 

I’ve been in this role for just under 6 months now, having previously been a teacher of young children for 12 years. I am used to relational working and communication, in all its forms, as it has been a huge part of my past working lifeWorking on a computer for extended periods of time is a new thing for me as I’m sure it is for many others. I praised God for my new office chair which arrived in the office the day that the government declared a nationwide lockdown. I promptly took it home; out with the rickety old second-hand dining chair and in with the cushioned seat and lumbar support.   

11.15am – receive a picture message of a tee-shirt that needs some serious repair, ‘Can anyone at ICN sew?’. Usually would arrange 1 to 1 meeting to teach the young person how to sew but because of the current situation that would involve there being less than 2 metres between us so say that I will come and pick it up from him.  I’ve started a new list of things to do after the lockdown: Teach this particular young person to sew. 

Another photo appears, ‘Can you fix this shoe? the picture reveals a trainer where the front piece of rubber has come unstuck from the base. 
I would go for superglue!’ If I pick them up today, then drop them off in the office tomorrow my colleague can then take the items back on Thursday when he delivers the weekly allowance to some of our youngsters. 

phone the accommodation where he lives so that they know that I will come later to pick up the items as no visitors are allowed into the main building at present
Whilst out can see about folders and pens for creative activity idea that I’ve had which will help with boredom and mental wellbeing. 

I fill in the relevant details from this mornings work on the reports then check and send the other reports on my list. At the same time, I create new ones for the month ahead.  

12.30pm – I stop to have lunch with my daughter who is also learning how to be a college student at home. It’s been important to create the bones of a routine and times to be present as I’m here but not here‘Meeting’ for lunch is a good way to do it. I suggest that she can come when I drive to Poole later for a ‘change of scene’. She jumps at the chance even though she won’t be able to get out of the van. 

1.15pm – I phone the contact within the university to check if the personal statement can be 800 words instead of 500 as a physical interview date is becoming more unlikely by the day. The University want to see a more full rounded picture of the young person applying, so this is fine.  

I email the young person’s social worker to keep him updated on the award application process then start to research and design the creative packs that I want to put together for each young person.  

2pm – We drive to PooleThe tee-shirts stitching has come undone and the front of his trainer has completely fallen off. He’s put pair of jeans with a small hole in the bag as well. I explain that this would take longer due to needing a patchAs it’s only a small hole he decides against giving me the jeansI have things that I’ve been needing to fix for literally years, but I’m determined to get this done tonight as I am aware of how little many of our youngsters have. 

I manage to get everything in a local supermarket that I need to complete the art packs, so that feels good. 

3.45pm – At home, I get to work creating them and repairing the clothes as will need to get both ready to leave in the office tomorrow morning so that my colleague can take them with him the next day. I usually finish at 5pm but I work a bit longer today so that I can get it all finished in time.  

Mel Kerour – SCSA Support Worker 

30 April 2020 

Drawing Parallels; what COVID-19 has taught me about refugees

Posted April 23, 2020 No Comments

ICN Ladies’ Conversation Corner Summer Picnic 2019

When COVID-19 arrived in the UK it all became a bit more real to me after I walked into the supermarket to find shelves of basic items such as pasta, rice and toilet paper empty. The kneejerk reaction for many people was to panic-buy essential items, or even hoard them. As the number of COVID-19 cases in the UK increased, many began to question the government’s preparedness for the pandemic. There were concerns for the most vulnerable in our communities and families. 

As the lockdown and the call for social distancing was implemented, we had to adjust to our ‘new normal’, taking extra precautions to wash our hands thoroughly and more often, and possibly to wear a mask when doing the food shopping.  All of a sudden, our own environment no longer felt safe.  Scenes from science fiction films became the new normal. 

Many of us started to create a safe bubble at home for ourselves and our immediate family. As the lockdown continued reality began to sink in that this may go on much longer than we first anticipated, and things might never go back to the old normal.  Concerns arose as to how this will affect our jobs and the economy. As we began to miss family and friends, it no longer felt like a much-earned rest. Contact with others only through social media and Zoom is just not the same. 

I have had a lot of time to reflect and think about what COVID-19 has revealed:  

Our response to COVID-19 should also help us to be more understanding of refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants who flee their country for safety due to war, natural disaster, or economic crisis. When faced with danger we as humans will do whatever it takes to make sure our family is safe.

For those who have already fled to the UK for safety and made their home here, they may now feel that nowhere is safe. The trauma they have experienced from war may resurface. They tell us that they are always concerned for family they left behind and are not able to visit. 

You may feel this paints a discouraging picture at first glance, but it demonstrates why it is so important for the staff of ICN to continue supporting refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants through this crisis.  That may look different for each of us as we work from home, but we continue to seek out creatives ways to engage with those who we have helped to rebuild their lives in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole. 

As support worker for ICN, my typical week in normal times includes leading a Tuesday morning Ladies’ Conversation Corner where women can come to practise their English and build friendships. Each week we have a different activity, which may involve art, crafts, culture and food.  We meet weekly to provide a safe place where the ladies can come and be themselves and receive friendship and support.  The rest of my week is filled with home visits and two homework clubs. I count it an honour and privilege to love and care for these families who have taught me about strength and resilience. I very much look forward to the day when we can gather again, and I hope it can include hugs, music, dancing and food from around the world. 

Anita Dalkin – Support Worker for Women & Families 

23 April 2020 

Easter Reflections 2020

Posted April 16, 2020 No Comments

We are all a little out of our regular routines at the moment, I think. The past month has been one of transition, uncertainty and probably anxiety for many, as what is “normal” shifts into something new.  

At ICN, staff have had to adjust to working almost entirely from home. Some are able to still fill their working hours; some have had to accept that, for now, they no longer can. Staff management looks different when those you are managing are scattered and no longer all in the same office. Staff meetings and devotions are now on Zoom and communication has had to take on a new level of intentionality. Support work – so fundamentally based on being physically present for those we work with – has now taken a different shape of countless WhatsApp messages, video calls, coordinating three way phone calls with service providers and interpreters, no more home visits (for the time beingand a lot more desk time for us staff!  

And amid all this comes Easter. I will admit that it crept up on me somewhat this year. Without so many of the traditional ‘markers’ that we normally observe at church services and small groups during the lead-up, it was Maundy Thursday by the time it sank in that we were going into the Easter weekend. Yet how appropriate that we should celebrate something so disruptive, uncomfortable, and transformational at a time like this. How appropriate that we should celebrate the final victory over death at a time when it seems death is winning. Christ rose from the dead in the same way that he was born – with no fanfare and no audience. After his resurrection he appeared in person to his disciples, a group of people who were choosing to stay indoors for their own safety. Sound familiar? Of course it’s not exactly the same situation, but I find it a reassuring parallel. Just because we cannot go out and about or go to church on a Sunday morning we are no further from the Lord than we used to beIt says in John 20:19 that when he met with the disciples after the resurrection the doors to the room they had gathered in were all locked.  There was no way in, and yet this posed to no barrier to the resurrected Christ. If he can overcome this physical obstacle whilst on earth, we can have total confidence that a lock-down also poses no barrier to the risen and ascended Christ. God is still meeting with every believer watching an online church service, with others or alone. He is meeting with every non-believer who clicks on the link shared by their Christian friend on Facebook “just to check it out”. He is meeting with every person of every race and religion who, in desperation, calls out to God they don’t know or don’t believe in when they are facing anxiety, illness and loneliness.  

At ICN we believe that God is working in this time, that God is comforting those experiencing illness and grief and fear. We believe that He is building His people up and that when we seek Him we will find Him. And to that end, we will also continue to work for Him. We will continue to teach, to support, and to love those we encounter through our work. We will adapt as individuals and as an organisation, and we will do our best to keep you updated with how we do this, and how you can support us. Our intention is that these blog posts will be a way of doing just that – we hope to give you a flavour of what we, as staff, get up to on a daily basis – both on a “normal” day and also during this period of change. We also want to be able to reflect on the heart behind what we do and give our staff the opportunity to share with you what motivates and encourages them in their work.  We are so grateful for the prayers, the encouragement and the support you provide, both financially and otherwise. If you do feel led to give to us financially, you can do so at any time through the Donate page on our website. We thank you again for standing with us in this work. 

Rachael Sawers – SVPRS Support Worker

16 April 2020

Rent your property
Donate to us on
Commission free donations