This past Wednesday, the Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Program (IRWP) hosted a Conversation Night for its students and teachers. The goal for the night was to offer students a chance to get to know each other and practice their new English skills outside of their at-home lessons. It was a night of delicious food (including baklava, hummus, fruit and veggies, and a cake), fun conversation, and games. I may be biased, but I would say the night was a smashing success.
For the first hour I was lucky enough to spend some time with our students’ awesome children. The kids enjoyed snacks, drawing, a movie, and puzzles and even got to take some children’s books home with them when the night was over. Providing childcare during events is an important part of carrying out the IRWP mission because it makes our events more accessible to students who have children. We believe it is important to make sure all our students have the option to participate and take advantage of our events. Not to mention, Conversation Night was lots of fun for the kids too.
Besides helping with the children, I also joined my student for the second half of the night to discuss our families and fill out family trees with the intermediate English group. It was amazing to see people from a variety of countries (Peru, Mexico, and Afghanistan, just to name a few) sharing common experiences and chatting and joking with each other about their families. I got the impression that the students were excited to meet other English students and to feel able to communicate with each other about their families. It was incredible to hear how many countries were represented when the students and teachers explained where all their siblings were living. One of the students at the table had ten siblings living in 7 different countries! IRWP is really a global community!
Students and their teachers participated in several other activities as well. The beginner English students had fun practicing using phonics flashcards to help them talk about their families too. One group also talked about their favorite foods to eat and cook; another discussed the activities the students do and how much they enjoy those activities, for example, going to work, golfing, watching TV, and having dinner with their families were just a few. A couple of the program staff also lead an activity in which students explained where they travel within St. Louis, placing pins on a map of the city in the locations where they spend the most time.
Conversation Night was a success, not to mention, a lot of fun! My student told me afterwards that she had been nervous to come and try to hold conversations in English, but that she had really enjoyed the event and felt a little more comfortable speaking in English afterwards. I think having the chance to speak with other people who are also trying to learn English is an important opportunity because it reduces the pressure students feel to speak perfectly and allows them to use English connect with people experiencing similar challenges, joys, and lessons. And I know my student’s daughter enjoyed the night too! At the end of the event she was already talking about coming back to play at the next Conversation Night! I think everyone at the event had fun and learned something too.
-Sarah, IRWP Intern