English UK member Country Cousins wins ELTons award for its PALS scheme
4 June 2014

English UK member Country Cousins has recently won a prestigious ELTons award for a pioneering scheme it runs. 

PALS - Promoting Acceptance of Language Students - enlists young people living in the seaside town of Ilfracombe in Devon to help ensure international students are accepted locally. The teenagers get training, a uniform, the chance to go on outings and more.

Country Cousins say the scheme has reduced conflict and promoted lasting friendships between the two groups of teenagers. And their students say PALS is one of the things they most like about their time at Country Cousins.

Michelle Schofield, welfare and accommodation manager of Country Cousins, said:

"We're really happy to have won this... we were just gobsmacked. It was so massive just to be there with all the others - winning was amazing."

She said the project started in 2010 when the company began working with Devon's youth services to help teenagers be more accepting of the international students.

"It started as a bit of an experiment, then last year we got the uniform. It's taken us a few years to get where we want to be. It does seem to work: we only had a problem once last year."

Michelle says there are usually up to 14 or 15 local teenagers in the scheme at any one time, and they have a rota for when they come to the centre during holidays and after school. They will socialise with the international students and go out on activities with them if there is space.

She says all the teenagers enjoy making friends with each other, and the Devon youngsters have the added benefit of having an experience which can be added to their CV or which counts towards a Duke of Edinburgh award.

The ELTons judges said: "This is a worthy project that is very effective."

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