Help HELP to increase refugees' access to ESOL!

There is desperate need for provision of free ESOL classes in Leeds. Harehills English Language Project (HELP) aims to do just that by providing access to free, quality ESOL.

Anyone working in the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) sector can’t help but have noticed recent lobbying against the government’s decision to axe the £45 million programme for Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants, which will have a devastating effect on those who were eligible. For those who never met the criteria for these courses – the vast majority refugees and asylum seekers – the situation continues to be bleak. Access to free, quality ESOL is very limited, especially for those of lower ability levels, who, of course, need it most.

Harehills, a mile out of the centre of Leeds, is home to a large community of asylum seekers and refugees, many from Eritrea, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Sub-Saharan Africa, Libya and Syria. It’s a vibrant, eclectic and fast-growing community with a great deal to offer the city and its inhabitants, but existing ESOL classes in the area are full to bursting and relying on long waiting lists. This is less than ideal, especially for new arrivals, who have a genuine desire and drive to learn English.

Leeds English Language Project (HELP) currently offers free ESOL classes on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, but the lower-ability groups are full to bursting (with a long waiting list is already forming) and the higher-level classes are quickly reaching capacity.

I currently co-ordinate the project and find having to turn people away one of the toughest – if not the toughest – part of the job: I don’t believe that refugees with a real desire to learn English in order to assimilate, yet who can't afford steep college or private fees, should ever be told that there’s no room at the inn. Nor are English classes only for language learning: they offer one of the few ways in which refugees can meet others who have been through similar trauma, form a support network and better integrate into British society. I'd like to do what I can by offering more free classes, initially on Fridays, but need some initial funding in order to do so. Please help me by visiting If you have £10 to spare – or less, or more – please do think about helping. If not, you could do just as much good by sharing my page with your friends, family, contacts … you never know who it may reach!