The Eddie Byers Fund supports language projects that transform people's lives.
13 September 2018

Created in memory of our late chief executive, the Eddie Byers Fund has already helped several hundred UK refugees and asylum-seekers in its first year of funding.

We helped small charities buy new materials, improve their classrooms, support students through exams so they could resume their studies or take up skilled employment, and gain the language they need to book doctors appointments or talk to their child's teacher.

Funding for these first awards was raised by English UK staff and friends who hiked the UK's three highest mountains in just over 24 hours, with generous donations from our industry.

Now we are attempting to raise a further £15,000 by taking on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge, walking 24 miles and 1585m up in just 12 hours. A dozen members of English UK's staff and trustees are joining in, as well as Eddie's widow, Sam.

If you can, please help us reach our target and change lives through learning.

We are also looking for a total of £2,000 in sponsorship for our transport up to the Yorkshire Dales, professional guide. find out more +

Who does the Eddie Byers Fund money help?

The first round of awards were made in 2017 to four charities that support refugees and asylum-seekers with English skills - helping around 250 people. A second round of awards have been made this year and we look forward to sharing them with you soon.

Language: a gateway with RefuAid in London

Refuaid grant recipient

Refuaid used their grant to help rebuild the lives of two refugees in London by helping them get English qualifications for work and education.

"Language is the biggest barrier facing those who've fled war and persecution in restarting their lives. Without language tuition refugees are unable to meet members of their new community, book doctor appointments, speak to their child's teacher, apply for jobs or continue their education," Hessy Elliott, language programmes manager for RefuAid, explains. "The grant has totally transformed their lives."

RefuAid, a small charity based in London, focusses on helping refugees get qualifications for work and education, including IELTS. But also provides casework support to help them with all aspects of life in the UK.

"After attending my course, I started feeling more confident in my workplace, there was less misunderstanding. People started accepting me in their community. I could also get the IELTS score I needed to get back to my own career as a doctor. Now I am very close to what I used to be. I really appreciate your support and genuine help." - Mirette (not her real name), 47, qualified doctor from Iran

"My next step is to begin a pre-university foundation course to prepare me to resume my university studies, which were interrupted when I left Aleppo five years ago. I saw my country destroyed in front of my eyes, and there was nothing to do but watch. So I have decided to become a medical doctor or engineer in order to help rebuild my country, if ever it becomes possible for me to go back. And if not, I just want to build anything that can be helpful. I want to make a difference here in the UK: this is the best way I can say thank you to my new home." - Basel, 24, Syria.


Bristol Refugee Rights: reading skills for refugees

Bristol Refugee Rights grant recipients

Bristol Refugee Rights used their grant on a reading project for refugees that included a crèche to allow people to attend and new reading material.

The charity has been running since 2006 and operates drop-in sessions each week where refugees and asylum seekers can have a cup of tea, make friends and learn English. Classes run at seven different levels, but people often need more support with reading, says director Beth Wilson.

"We needed age-appropriate, adult beginner reading books and resources to use again and again, and with that a crèche session to support the classes on the course so parents with children can still engage. There's a lack of ESOL with crèche in Bristol so that's a really important element – it bars people from going to college so that's a really important part of the service."

Some people have had very successful careers in their home countries, including doctors, head teachers and university professors, Beth explains. Some want to practice for IELTS, to raise their standard by a point or half point so that they can get the qualification they need to get back into their profession in the UK.


Asylum Link Liverpool: ESOL expansion

Asylum Link Merseyside Students from Syria Syria Pakistan Eritrea Sudan Yemen Iran and Cameroon

Asylum Link in Liverpool, which teaches English to around a hundred people a week in a former priests' house, received a grant to install a projector and buy English teaching material that were more suitable for adults.

"We are a team of 26 volunteers, but we are now more professional," Trustee and English Teacher Bridie Sharkey explained after receiving the grant. "Our classroom practice is improving, our students are more engaged, their learning is enhanced and they are increasing in confidence. We are full of ideas for further improvement."

The project supported around 100 students of 20 nationalities. Bridie speaks movingly of their struggles and how they are prepared to walk to the centre in all weathers for their English lessons and to help cook a communal lunch, repair bikes and work on the allotment.

She recalls students from her first class: a girl who arrived with nothing but who is now a hairdresser; a Sudanese man who fled after witnessing the murder of his parents, who has just been joined by his family; and a university lecturer from Iran who is now a local bus driver.

"Twelve years ago, when the charity began, there was a trickle of asylum seekers. Now we're inundated with people all the time, and their needs are huge," she said.

Racheed, a young asylum seeker from Sudan, said: "coming to class is everything to me. I don't stay in my room. I come to Asylum Link and have friends and we laugh together. I am more confident because I come here to class."

Mamoud, a refugee from Syria, said: "English class is my only future. I cannot understand anything unless I have my English. I need to start my life again. I study very hard."


Oasis English Language School: communicate to integrate

Oasis English language school Eddie Byers Fund recipient

Oasis in Ipswich used its grant to buy books and cover the expenses of its volunteer teachers who teach around 33 different nationalities, giving them the language skills to integrate into the local community.

Charity founder Linda Pepper says: "This grant enabled us to buy books and meet some of the expenses of our volunteer teachers. Our learners benefited from the extra teaching time and several students on our advanced 'Ready for Work' course were successful in getting jobs."

Mohammed, a 19-year-old from Algeria, arrived in Ipswich to live with an aunt. He had no English at all. After his course he could attend a pre-entry course at college. He said our course had helped him begin the long journey he still has to make towards integration. "I was lost... but now I have some chance."

As well as classes for learners of different levels, Oasis runs a crèche to improve access in an area where the last census showed 20% of residents could not speak English. Many of the learners are women from families that cannot afford conventional lessons.


How can I help?

The Eddie Byers Fund is entirely created by donations. Please help us reach our ambitious target to raise £15,000 by 20 October 2018. It is going to be a grueling 12 hours but if we reach our goal we will be able to support more life-changing projects for the next couple of years

We are also looking for a total of £2,000 in sponsorship for our transport up to the Yorkshire Dales, professional guide and medic, and a new banner and t-shirts. English UK will match all sponsorship raised and any extra funds will be added to the Eddie Byers Fund. The team will cover the costs of their accommodation, kit and food.

We welcome sponsors from £500 and will be proud to thank you on our fundraising page, in fundraising emails, stories, social media coverage and press releases about the challenge, as well as on our t-shirts and banner.


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