President's Award

CARAS ESOL Project

2021 National Winner

CARAS is a South London charity that specialises in working with young people and adults who are seeking asylum or have a refugee background. It provides holistic support including educational, practical and social help, and creating supportive relationships and networks to increase people’s wellbeing and safety.

Many of the learners we work with face significant barriers to accessing education, training or employment. These might be due to immigration status, waiting lists to access college, or struggles with mental or physical health and self-confidence.

What’s unique about CARAS is our combination of participatory learning, trauma-informed practice and the way we celebrate the linguistic and cultural diversity of our community. We do our best to make sure that learners’ holistic needs are met, and our casework team provides one-to-one advocacy and guidance on anything from housing to college applications.

We also ensure that our classes meet the diverse language-learning aims and needs people have. For some, learning English to find a job is their top priority, while for others, the goal is meeting new people and finding a sense of community. We find ways to help overcome barriers which people might have to improving their English. For example, recognising that some women won’t access mixed-gender provision due to previous trauma, or for cultural reasons, we offer a women’s ESOL accredited exam course with a professional creche service.

Whatever reasons people start out with for learning English, learners consistently report the positive impact improved communication has on their confidence, and the emotional benefits of building relationships with CARAS group members.

One CARAS learner said: “Before my classes with CARAS, I relied on my children to translate things for me. Now, I can speak with my neighbours, answer questions when my children’s school calls me, and am no longer scared of taking public transport. I feel so much happier, not only from having made new friends, but also from the supportive CARAS staff and volunteers – they’re always there to talk about personal things over Zoom or in our class WhatsApp group – it’s amazing what we share.”