Free English courses for students affected by Abruzzo Earthquake
14 May 2009

More than 50 young victims of last month's devastating Italian earthquake will be able to learn English for free in Britain this summer, thanks to the generosity of English UK members.

Schools have offered 63 free courses after an appeal from the Italian Embassy in London, which says it is overwhelmed by the response.

Giuseppe Berlendi, Counsellor at the Embassy, says: "British people have been showing great generosity and solidarity towards Italy.

"I am really struggling to find the words... I am really confused by this generosity."

He said the Italian Ambassador wanted to thank all the schools, and would also be writing to the British Council with the names of those who had offered places. "We want to tell them that we asked English schools in Britain and got so many offers we could not accept any others.

"We want to recognise their generosity - it's always rare and must be encouraged."

Almost 300 people died as a result of the earthquake, which struck the central Italian region of Abruzzo on April 6. It registered 6.3 on the Richter scale and left tens of thousands of people homeless. Many of them are still living in tents.

Mr Berlendi said it was difficult to predict how many young people will decide to take up the offer of a fortnight learning English in the UK.

"The girls and boys are at present in tents so maybe they won't want to leave their families... I don't know whether there will be more than 50 candidates," he said.

Eight of the participating schools have also offered free accommodation, and the Embassy has also appealed to Italian families living in the UK to take in students from the Abruzzo region during their free courses.

So far, 35 families have agreed to host a student for a fortnight and Mr Berlendi believes that it will be possible to take up around 55 of the free places on offer. Details of the schools and the families offering places have been sent to the authorities in the earthquake zone who will then make the arrangements.

Tony Millns, Chief Executive of English UK, said: "At this challenging time, it is tremendously encouraging to see how positively English UK members have responded to the appeal to give help to the areas of Italy affected by the recent earthquake.  

"We hope that the Italian students who come to the UK have a fantastic experience here and help to build stronger ties for the future between Italy and the UK."


Susan Young


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