Sandra's great achievement | ELPNZ

Sandra's great achievement

07 June 2017

As they settled in New Zealand, one of the first destinations the Clavijo family headed to was their local library.

They have spent a lot of time there since, working to improve their English.

So much so, that mum Sandra was recently named as the winner of the Refugee Achievement category at the inaugural English Language Partners New Zealand national awards.

The handsome plaque she received is now displayed proudly in their home at Tawa, near Porirua, while she has put the accompanying $2,000 scholarship towards her continuing studies.

Sandra knew very little English when the family first arrived in New Zealand in October 2015 and initially failed the English entry test for Whitireia Polytechnic. 

“We just learnt very basic English at secondary school in Colombia so I only spoke a few words,” says Sandra.

“The Red Cross told us about English Language Partners (ELP). My home tutor Howard Lukefahr is a very good teacher – in particular, he helped me to understand the past, present and future tenses. I also went to English Language Groups with English Language Partners Porirua and studied at Tawa library in my spare time.” 

Manager Jacqs Wilton knew that Sandra’s hard work would pay off. “She has an enormous desire to make a success of her new life in New Zealand – for herself and her family – and she’s working really hard to get her English where it needs to be.“

Sandra has developed great relationships with the people who have helped her settle in New Zealand. “Our ELP tutors have helped us so much. Also our Red Cross volunteers Alan Kwokb and Sarah Kelly who helped us when we first came here – and took us to the library and showed us how to do things like catch the train and bus. 

“We attend the Colombian church in Lower Hutt. We have made many friends there and at Whitireia and through English classes. People have been kind and welcoming in New Zealand.”   

Sandra’s commitment to learning is best summed up by Jacqs Wilton, English Language Partners’ manager who nominated Sandra for her award – describing her as a “strong-willed and determined learner who has achieved so much in such a short amount of time.

“I know it hasn’t been easy for Sandra and her family. We are so proud of her success, and I wish her all the best for that future she’s working so hard to achieve.”