English for Action

07 November 2019

Migration places people in situations which affect their health, including living and working conditions, language barriers and access to good quality housing. Through Language for Change, residents are gaining so much from learning English in such a supportive and open environment.

My favourite part of the project is the people. There are English classes every week where we can also talk about the things that we are finding difficult in life like housing. 

It’s not easy coming to a country where you don’t speak the language because it is important for everything – from communicating with other people, to finding a better job, or even going to the shops. As a group, we feel braver and support each other to make our lives better and to be part of society. 

“We have a lot of migrants and refugees in Tower Hamlets who have never had the opportunity to learn English formally, and without the ability to communicate, they are often pushed to the fringes of the community. People really want to learn. We’re trying to help people build the skills they need to live a happy life, to support their families, get to know their neighbours and make friends in the community.”

Phoebe Cullingworth, Development Manager at EFA London 

Members in a session at EFA London

I was first introduced to English for Action (EFA) when my daughter started school and I was told about free English classes with a crèche for babies in Tower Hamlets [London]. I didn’t have enough money to pay to have anyone look after my son while my daughter was in school – so having him sit in a buggy next to me during the class helped me a lot. To be honest, I think that was the best opportunity I ever had in my life here. 

I had already taken another English course, but I prefer the class with EFA because it’s very sociable. It’s a nice environment to study there; it’s friendly and fun and the teachers are dedicated. At other courses, you finish a lesson and you have to leave right away. But sometimes you have doubts or questions. At EFA, the teacher has the time and patience to spend time with you after class. They have the passion to teach people and help outside of class too. If the teacher can go with you to an appointment, they will go with you.

The teachers put a lot of effort into helping us in everything we need to improve our lives. Apart from learning English, they have helped me a lot in my life in order to get a job and help my children at school. Now I am very happy to come to the class and meet all the friendly people from other countries and cultures.

I’ve made friends with the other students. You learn a lot from the different cultures. We go on trips, which is nicer than just sitting in a classroom and gives us the opportunity to socialise more. Once, we took the boat to Greenwich to have a picnic. Everybody took food from their own country and we shared.

I think so many doors can be opened for you if you know English. This country is full of opportunities and you need to find the right way to take them.” 

Sanjeela Sagar, project member

English for Action were awarded £38,360  for their ‘Language for Change’ project, which is funded through the Trust’s Active Communities programme with money raised through Health Lottery London East.


This case study was produced as part of People's Health Trust's 2019 Annual Review. To read it in full, click here.

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