St Aloysius parish offers practical help to refugees

Tim Curtis SJ
Tim Curtis SJ

St Aloysius parish in Glasgow has responded to the needs of refugees within their community by offering English language lessons.

“As a parish we were wondering how we should respond to the refugee crisis, but unsure what was most needed and most practical” explains Fr Tim Curtis SJ, parish priest.  “We asked the advice of Glasgow City Council and one of their officers took time out to come and advise us. They told us that the greatest need was for English language lessons so the parish council began to plan how we could best use our gifts, talents and resources support this.  Luckily there are many teachers and retired teachers among our congregation who were keen to help and we have put together a great team of thirteen volunteers.” 

The City Council estimates there to be around 3000 destitute asylum seekers living in Glasgow, and on top of this they have agreed to take 200 vulnerable Syrians via the government’s resettlement scheme. 

The parish is now offering English classes of an hour a day, five days per week, and have had to cap numbers at 40 per session which means turning people away.  Most of the students are young men, but usually there are around six women at each session.
“it has proved very popular and we are delighted to be able to help so many people.  There is a great range of abilities but we have had very good feedback, and they keep coming as word spreads” said Fr Tim.

Each class has two or three teachers who volunteer on a rota.  The curriculum has been planned by two volunteers with qualification in English as a foreign language, and classes are held in the Ogilvie Centre next to  the church, which tends to be unused during the day.

The classes started just before Easter.  Looking to the future Fr Tim commented “the scheme is working very well and seems to be valued by the asylum seekers who are all looking to improve their skills and contribute to society.  We will review at the end of the summer term and hopefully continue this good work into the autumn.”