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Durham student’s initiative helps Ukrainian children

When war hit Ukraine, Alexandra Hart wanted to do something with a real-world benefit for those hit by its consequences.

Alexandra, a student at Durham University’s St Chad’s College, had previously run a summer camp for children in Ukraine, and felt the effect of the conflict through her personal connections and memories.

Driven by that connection, she had the idea of offering free English tuition to Ukrainian children who may end up living in the UK, where some prior knowledge of the language could help them settle in faster.

Alexandra found a relevant Facebook group and sent out an initial message. While at lunch, a friend joked that she might get home to hundreds of requests. That joke turned out to be prophetic when Alexandra returned to over 500 responses.

The resulting project is Tutor for Ukraine, which provides free online English language lessons to children aged seven to 17 over blocks of 10 weeks. Since May, over 200 students and 25 tutors have taken part.

Alexandra worked with Durham University Student Volunteering & Outreach (DUSVO) to set up the project. “Within one week I was completely set up online and within two weeks I had my first 10 tutors,” she says. “I’m incredibly grateful to DUSVO for all of their amazing support. It was a remarkably easy process and they’ve been wonderful.”

A qualified teacher of English as a Foreign Language assisted Alexandra with writing 40 lesson plans to cater for older and younger students at beginner and intermediate levels of English.

Tutors volunteer for one hour per week, making it feasible alongside university studies, and Alexandra and her team ensure that new recruits receive the appropriate induction.

“Numbers do fluctuate in the classes – understandably,” Alexandra said. “Some children are still in Ukraine and you can hear planes passing overhead. Some of my students once joined a call from a Berlin train station as they were travelling across Europe. Some started their course in Ukraine and ended it in the UK.

“DUSVO helped me to recruit new volunteers at the Freshers’ Fair, create a SharePoint site and promote the project through social media. I would love to expand the programme to other universities, so we’re also in discussions about possible collaboration.”

 

Image courtesy of Library
Liz Granirer
Liz Granirer
Liz has been a journalist for many years. She is currently editor of EL Gazette and has previously edited the magazines Young Performer, StepForward and Accounting Technician; been deputy editor on Right Start magazine; chief sub editor on Country Homes & Interiors; and sub editor on easyJet Traveller, Lonely Planet and Family Traveller magazines, along with a number of others.
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