A MOTHER who fled Iran spoke of being able to “hear again” after learning English.

The woman, Zinat, was one of half-a-dozen refugees and asylum seekers put through their paces on a six week intensive English language course by Swindon charity the Harbour Project.

Bosses at the charity hope the language training will make it easier for the new arrivals to Britain to find jobs or work experience.

In an emotional graduation ceremony, Zinat said: “I can hear, I can see, I can speak. The course has given me the confidence. I can now find friends and seek employment.”

Her goal when she started was to have enough English to speak to her son’s teachers and help him with homework: “If you come to a new place and you don’t speak the language you struggle to integrate.”

Now, the former Iranian teacher wants to set up a kite festival in Swindon, similar to those found in Iranian capital Tehran. She told the Swindon Advertiser: “Kites are free. They give you the feeling of flying. At the festival you should see all of the people looking up, not down at their phones.”

Funded by Santander, the course saw refugees and asylum seekers supported by the Harbour Project daily visit Swindon School of English in Old Town for classes.Robert Moyse, director of the language school, said: “Everyone worked so hard. There was such dedication from everyone and it was great to see people’s confidence and self-esteem developing. We’re very pleased with the progress they made.”

Robert Moyse with Zinat at the graduation ceremony. Picture:  NOVA NGALEKTSO

Course participants came from the Middle East, Asia and Africa, posted in Swindon by the Home Office. Swindon is one of the government’s so-called dispersal towns in the south west, where asylum seekers are housed while they await the outcome of their asylum claim.

The Harbour Project, a refugee charity based in Broadgreen, this year established a new Steps2Work programme aimed at helping new arrivals win work experience placements or employment.

Like Zinat, a former teacher and charity organiser in Iran, many of the new arrivals are skilled professionals. What they need is help with their English and advice on the different workplace culture in Britain.


Claire Garrett, chief executive of the Harbour Project, said: “The main bit of feedback we get from everybody, whether it’s about jobs, volunteering or involvement in the community, is the key to all of that is English. We can teach a lot of things, but English is key. It’s about people having an opportunity to contribute in the UK.”

The Harbour Project’s Steps2Work scheme offers English training, as well as help with CVs and finding work placements or employment.

It has the backing of businesses, including Business West’s Swindon director Ian Larrard. Nicola Bush of South Marston firm Recycling Technologies said at the course graduation: “We want to support people and communities, expanding with really skilled workers who might not otherwise get the opportunities.”

Deputy mayor Coun Kevin Parry added his backing to the scheme: “I think it’s absolutely fantastic, hearing some of the people’s stories is inspiring. You can tell the programme has really paid off.”