1. The groups
Migrants – In the UK, DCVS staff had to re-think the group they will engage with. The Covid 19 pandemic struck just as their first Eastern European learners were ready to start the course. The sessions were designed for face to face teaching, and the sessions were supposed to be embedded in the English language lessons.
When the pandemic started, most people from Eastern Europe became the key workers overnight. They were employed in critical sectors like health and social care, food supply chain, logistics and transport. Many of them worked long hours and were unable to embark on additional activities. Therefore, when the occasion to work with a group of refugees and asylum seekers arisen, we took this opportunity in stride.
We engaged with refugees through PARCA, the Refugee Council, EELGA, and Herts Welcomes Refugees. In the end, DCVS engaged with two groups of migrants. The refugee group with a low level of English and the mixed migrant group with better language skills. In the first group, there were four women and ten men from countries like Syria, Iran, Afganistan, Eritrea and Egypt. Most migrant learners were unemployed and over 35 years of age; some were far from accessing the job market for multiple reasons and in receipt of benefits.
Still, some younger migrants in the diverse group were either employed part-time or preparing to continue further education. This group consisted of ten women and eight men from Brazil, Poland, Kosovo, Morocco, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt and Syria.
Minorities – we engaged with two minority groups from Jewish and Mormon backgrounds.
In both groups, most participants were over 50 years of age and reasonably skilled or retired. They were recommended to us by the trainers from courses for educators. Again, both groups were not our initial target groups but due to the pandemic vital to engage with due to the growing concerns about loneliness and digital exclusion.
2 Particularities of the tailored learning program
There were four groups of participants, two from the migrant and two from a minority background. Each group took part in five online sessions.
At DVCS, we decided to use digital storytelling as a primary method. We needed to change the delivery mode to online as all face to face activities were forbidden or impractical.
Digital Storytelling is not easy to teach online, but the idea of improving participants’ digital skills, their language and tackling loneliness at the same time was truly enticing. At DVCS, we decided to use digital storytelling as a primary method. We needed to change the delivery mode to online as all face to face activities were forbidden and later on impractical.
Digital Storytelling is not easy to teach online, but the idea of improving participants’ digital skills, their language and tackling loneliness at the same time was truly enticing.
Although, at first, the lack of geographical barrier helped us attract more participants, it also posed a major logistic challenge. Due to digital poverty and the wide range and quality of devices used by participants, staff had to think on their feet about organising this aspect of delivery. In the end, we decided to use a free online tool called Canva, accessible from all digital devices and very easy to use, even by absolute beginners.
The web of connections, where one person briefly talks about what they did today, another person who can relate lifts their hand and talks about their experience. In the meantime, the second trainer draws the lines to visualise the connections.
Here is an example of how this exercise looked on the screen:
The trainers also used the Mindfulness and Dixit cards on the Jamboard, to unlock our participants’ creative side and check their welfare. Everyone had to pick the card illustrating an answer to the trainer’s question like How was your week? How do you feel after today’s session? What would yo like to learn during the course?
3. Evaluation tools used
We used the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale for evaluation the level of self esteem at the beginning and at the end of the workshops.
After each workshop we had a reflection session when participants were supported to meditate on the whole experience and self assess their evolution.
4. Successfully elements and obstacles
Project AMICI proved incredibly successful in the UK after re-thinking the strategy and engaging with slightly different target groups of participants.
As the courses progressed, we could observe that the participants for the migrant communities started improving their English and digital skills and feeling much better within themselves. Project AMICI proved incredibly successful in the UK after re-thinking the strategy and engaging with slightly different target groups of participants. Some refugees and asylum seekers did not speak to anyone for days as they live independently, often in contingency accommodation. English lessons were the only time they could interact with other people. The project gave them a sense of belonging and being included again in society.
Minority groups were proud to talk about their heritage and family history. Some of them vastly improved their digital skills and were proud to document digitally their family history. After the restrictions got lifted in the UK, participants proudly shared their digital stories with their families. Most participants decided to create more stories; some already put this idea in motion and even created their own YouTube channel.