Sue Blakely, QSM, is one hugely committed English Language Partners’ teacher.
For over 20 years, Sue has supported hundreds of Christchurch learners, both in and out of class – as a volunteer and an ELP teacher. An incredibly generous woman, Sue’s spent 1,000s of hours creating resources for preliterate learners, finding childcare for young mums. Sue always goes that extra mile, even helping with travel to class!
She worked tirelessly through the Christchurch earthquakes and aftermath of the 2019 mosque shootings, both significant events, and many who work with Sue comment on her dedication to helping refugees create a new home in Aotearoa.
Sue was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for 2021. Her efforts have made an enormous impact on the lives of a huge number of Christchurch families, and it’s an award Sue richly deserves.
We’re so proud of Sue and delighted to share her reflections on working with English Language Partners.
“With a preschooler and four teenagers, teaching at a primary school became too burdensome, but because I loved teaching, I wanted to find something that wasn’t a full- time role. A course for ESOL Home Tutoring looked promising. It turned out to be the most interesting and informative I had ever attended and Jill McAra was a superb and inspirational tutor.
“I worked with two Cambodian women, then more people from the same group joined in. Judi Bastin, then the ESOL tutor at Mairehau Primary School, gave us space in her classroom. The organisation became known as Refugee Resettlement Support and was jointly managed with that and Christchurch ESOL Home Tutors (now English Language Partners). Later a group of Somali people arrived. The Cambodian people, hardly resettled themselves, were incredibly generous and welcoming. Unfortunately, the combined group wasn’t going to provide optimal learning for the Cambodian people, as they were very self-effacing whilst the Somali were wonderfully outgoing. Classes were set up in different locations for the two groups. After the amalgamation of local centres into English Language Partners there was more stability, an assured budget and as people from other countries were resettled in New Zealand, there was more diversity in classes.
“As a class teacher with English Language Partners, I have the advantage of working with a bilingual Cultural Language Advisor (CLA). One of the rewards from this is the opportunity to really hear stories from learners, both those that are highly amusing, others heartbreaking. One was from a Cambodian woman who was in hospital suffering agonizing pain from kidney stones. When the Doctor asked her if she “wanted an injection”, she thought he was asking if she wanted Michael Jackson. Her reply, until she understood better, was a vehement “No!”.
“The support and services English Language Partners provides through their national and local management, the teachers, those paid and those volunteering, make an immeasurable difference in the lives of those new to local customs and language.
“Volunteers particularly, can make a huge difference by working in community situations to help newcomers feel comfortable opening a conversational interchange with a ‘local’. It is so enriching to have the opportunity to learn about other cultures and cultural norms, and to be in awe of the courage and adaptability of newcomers surviving and then thriving in a new strange environment.
“Last year I met a young Afghani woman who had arrived with those rescued by the Tampa. When she arrived, she could speak no English, had never been to school and couldn’t read or write in her own language. All these years later she was working as an interpreter at the hospital. She was glowing with confidence and pride.”