2 June 2016
Nineteen Derby College learners who are recent arrivals to Derby from across the world are compiling their stories of how they have come to the UK which will be published in a book entitled ‘Our Journey to English’ and launched as part of this year’s Derby Book Festival.
The students are on the Lexis programme at Derby College’s Roundhouse campus which is designed for 16 to 19-year-old learners whose first language is not English – enabling them to gain qualifications and progress into further education or employment.
Organisers of this June’s Derby Book Festival invited the learners to recount their experiences and feelings about leaving their home countries and relocating to the UK with their families.
Their words have been illustrated for the book by art and design students from the college.
ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) adult learners based on the Derby College course at the city’s St James’ Centre are also producing a separate book ‘Fantastic Flavours From Afar’ - featuring their favourite family recipes which will also be published as part of the festival.
Among the Lexis students involved in the project is Jahra Afroz (17) who came to Derby from Bangladesh with her mother and brother last year.
Jahra’s father is a key member of the opposition party in Bangladesh and was keen for his family to escape the danger posed by his political views.
Jahra explained that she wanted to convey her feelings about leaving her friends and family and starting a new life in a strange country.
“We had a good lifestyle in Bangladesh but it was becoming very dangerous for our family because of my father’s political career.
“Although I am settling in Derby I do feel very homesick. I feel that my life has been turned upside down and it is tough to start all over again here.
“I read some of what I have written at the festival programme launch which was very nerve wracking but I had a good reaction from the audience.
“Once the book is published, I hope that more people will realise just how difficult it is to come to a new country and how frustrating it can be, especially for young people, to adapt to a new life.”
Jahra is planning to go onto university to fulfil her dream of becoming a lawyer.
Ibrahim Al-Jaf (18) has taken the opportunity to recount how his father made the long and arduous journey from Kurdistan 16 years ago.
“My father was a writer and escaped from Kurdistan in 2000 before he was arrested by Saddam Hussain’s regime.
“He did not have any money and could not pay the people traffickers to get him to the UK so it took him many months to finally get passage here.
“He has worked very hard to build a good life here and got his UK passport four years ago. My family and I joined him two years ago.
“It was very difficult growing up in Kurdistan without him and but I am very grateful for what he has done and the risks he took to give our family a chance of a new and better life.
“My father is very proud of what I have done as part of this project but I don’t think I will follow in his footsteps of being a writer. My goal is to join the Uniformed Public Services course here at the College and to become a police officer.”
Desislav Georgiev (18) came to Derby from Bulgaria with his family last year to escape the prejudice and persecution faced by the gypsy community there.
“We were promised a job straight away but that did not happen and I didn’t speak very much English when we first came here so it has been tough.
“However we feel much more settled now. Derby is a friendly place and it is good not face the racism and prejudice that we did back home.
“It has been hard to leave friends and family but I want people to understand better just what it is like for people to leave everything and start again in a new country.”
Desislav is also planning to do the Uniformed Public Services course at College and work in the security industry or police service.
Lexis programme lecturer Andrew Parfitt continued: “This has been a very empowering project for these learners – many of whom have experienced severe hardships and struggles in their young lives.
“We are all very excited about seeing the published book and it has given them a real sense of purpose and camaraderie to voice their experiences and feelings.”
The book will be published and available to buy for the first time at a Derby Book Festival event to be hosted by Derby College on Monday June 6 at the Joseph Wright Campus.
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