Here to help


For refugees and migrants arriving with little English, daily life can be scary. Luckily, our volunteers are here to help.

Denise Lawrence is one of these incredible people helping newer Kiwis make the most of their new lives. Her incredible dedication to help others has certainly not gone unnoticed, and she has recently been awarded the 2017 English Language Partners “Distinguished Volunteer Service Award”.

In 1993, Denise saw a sign in her library inviting people to help migrants with English. She decided to give it a try.

Twenty-five years on, she hasn’t looked back. For Denise, volunteering was more rewarding than she had thought, discovering along the way that she was truly changing people’s lives. Speaking at the Awards Ceremony, she reflected on her time as a tutor:

“I remember fondly the lovely people and families I’ve met, the delicious food they always used to give me, and the friendships that I’ve made. My late grandparents came to New Zealand from Beirut, Lebanon, as children in 1900, and my grandmother often talked about the stigma of being labelled a foreigner, even though she grew up here. Today she would be absolutely thrilled to be here, to be accepted, to be able to find the ingredients to the fabulous food she used to make for us, and to know that her granddaughter is being involved in a small way in helping other new New Zealanders settle in here.”

She first worked with an Iraqi woman who had two toddlers, and says the process was a learning experience for her too – getting to understand another culture. Since then, Denise has taught 18 people, including women from Iraq, Cambodia, India and Bosnia.

Learning English has given many the opportunity to achieve their dreams.

“I particularly remember one Cambodian mother of two small children who wanted to train as an early childhood teacher.

She was so determined and was studying for an English sixth form paper by correspondence – she passed her paper in the end!”

As well as teaching people in their homes, Denise also helps with an English group at a local community centre, and she is constantly reminded how lonely it can be when you can’t speak English.

“I love the class. Quite a few older Chinese people have come here to help look after grandchildren. As the children grow up and go to school, they may not have patience with their grandparents who can’t speak English. The grandparents can feel quite isolated. It‘s really special when people suddenly understand something you have said.

English Language Partners does an amazing job – long may that continue!”

Please donate to help volunteers like Denise empower new Kiwis.

Last year, we managed to help 6,600 people in New Zealand. Our 23 learning centres were supported by an incredible 2,300 volunteers (800 were newly trained).

But we can only keep doing what we do with your help.

Your donation can make a huge difference to refugees and migrants and their families. Together, we can create stronger communities and build a better future for newer Kiwis in their new home – New Zealand.

Patricia Thompson


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