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Sew & Tell ESL (for reference)

Information covering the previously held formal ESOL classes follows for reference. Details of our current ESL group can be found here.

A community English programme that uses:

  • traditional ESOL classes (led by a CELTA trained tutor)
  • sewing circle based conversation groups and
  • community projects

to build participants’:

  • English ability
  • personal confidence and
  • social integration.

Particularly successful at finding, engaging and supporting isolated women from a wide range of cultural backgrounds and life stages; the programme is now exploring expanding into new geographic areas and replicating/translating our experiences into new work.

Through this programme for women with very low English ability and/or literacy in any language, Significant Seams provides English tuition, a supportive sewing circle which encourages English conversation practice, and it breaks down isolation.  It also often brings together women across faiths, cultures and ethnicities for the first time. We provide tuition in a combination of classroom, sewing circle, and family learning environments to women with very limited English language skills, and often very little formal education.

Our programme mirrors the six-week school terms that shapes most participants’ lives, running for 39 weeks per year. We have engaged women from Pakistan, Turkey, Bulgaria, Albania, Lithuania, Somali, Eritrea, Cameroon, Sierra Leone and Cote D’ivore. They have come from different faith and cultural groups across Christianity and Islam. They have highlighted a profound desire to develop their language skills but significant obstacles – often related to mothering responsibilities. They have indicated they want to be able to express their views, talk with other people, gain independence, and help their children in school.

Our sessions have led to conversations regarding differing religious views around dress, charity, and faith practice – and women’s roles. We have worked with the Asian Seniors Club, St Gabriel’s Church, a local Women’s refuge that is part of the national Poppy Project network supporting trafficked women, The Soul Project and Woodside, Barclays and Churchill Children’s Centres, and as of autumn 2015, the Borough of Waltham Forest Library network to reach the women who can most benefit.

Our work in this programme fosters spoken language ability that:

  • Improves language ability and confidence
  • Increases community connectedness
  • Increases cross cultural understanding
  • Improves promotion and sharing of craft skills
  • Provides social support to women isolated by their lack of English

Sewing has been proven to be medically beneficial to those experiencing anxiety and depressive disorders, it mediates potentially uncomfortable initial interactions, and facilitates personal conversations. The women will get to know one another, become a social network, and connect to wider community projects, breaking down their sense of isolation. We hope some participants will progress to other language provisions, and a number will join our volunteer programme to help run our community space, retail space, and make items to raise funds for the organisation and its programmes. These other activities are core to our longer term financial independence and sustainability of our programmes.

This programme is made possible by external funding,  including contracts from partner organisations and from donations. We welcome and greatly appreciate your interest.