OLDER PEOPLE TEACHING REFUGEES ENGLISH
THE HUMAN IMPACT: New immigrants come to a country with few language skills and no social fabric. Faile Isteach trains older people – a vital, underused national resource with a lot of free time – to teach new migrants and refugees English for free. Refugees acquire a new language and learn about their new country and customs, while building ties with community elders and one another. Above all, it alleviates the isolation of both the new migrants and all the local older population.
THE NUMBERS IMPACT: Fáilte Isteach currently has 83 groups involving over 800 volunteer tutors that welcome 2,700 migrant students each week across Ireland. It has been operating for 10 years in cities, towns, and isolated rural areas. It has expanded into the United States, England and now Germany. It is relevant in any country with an aging population as well as an influx of refugees.
HOW DOES IT WORK? Fáilte Isteach (Welcome in), a project of Third Age, is a community initiative that involves older volunteers welcoming migrants to their community through conversational English classes. Fáilte Isteach promotes both language learning and integration. The project offers local communities the tools to integrate migrants into their community, to teach them language skills but also practical local knowledge, customs and culture. Fáilte Isteach has created simple curriculum and creates a kind of pop-up classroom in community centers, churches, and common rooms all over the country. Older people are trained to teach basic English, paired with a local migrant in regular weekly gatherings. Older people are offered a chance to contribute to their community and get to know populations they may have never met. At the same time, refugees gain something of a local mother/father figure to help guide them through their new reality. The decentralized program can be set up individually by interested local groups and has spread virally across Ireland.
WHO STARTED IT? Mary Nally is founder of Third Age, Ireland’s most successful social entrepreneur working with older people. In her local grocery store, she saw a new migrant lacking language skills struggle with the check out, and was struck with the idea for Fáilte Isteach.
HOW HELLO EUROPE IS HELPING: Every country in Europe has an aging population, and the refugee crisis is evident in many. These two resources are ripe to be connected. Already, Hello Europe has helped Mary adapt and scale the initiative in Germany in partnership with Contec and Bremer Heimstiftung, organizations that serve the elderly. Together they have trained and set up language teaching groups. Hello Europe is now supporting Contec to develop new partnerships to spread the model to other areas in Germany
WHAT THEY NEED NOW: Mary is looking for organizations which currently work with older people, government bodies, funders, and educational institutions. We need a champion to establish a first pilot in relevant new countries.