The Big Change Foundation in Moscow was founded by a group of teachers, united by a common dream of helping orphanage “graduates” to realise their potential and enable them to live life to the fullest. FHM supports Big Change, as and when we are able, by funding extra activities such as the English Club which is described below.
The primary purpose of the English Club is not to teach English. Instead the goals are broader, to develop: Communication skills with other students, teachers, and volunteers; Social skills such as proper behaviour in various situations, finding information, presenting it to others; Selforganization and planning (keeping one’s word, coming on time); and subject knowledge and general intellectual abilities. But learning English is good, too!
Club sessions were held twice a month, with up to 8 students and up to 6 volunteers in addition to the teachers. Interaction with the volunteers is an important part of the education process for kids who may not have much contact with the outside world.
Themes for each session were varied and interesting: in October, Halloween and pumpkins; in December, making cards and learning how to give gifts and thank people; learning about animals and wildlife; trying Irish dance; translating English songs and singing with guitar; and translating Russian poems into English.
As students learned new vocabulary and took part in presentations, they became better able to express themselves and listen to others. Some self-conscious students became more active and showed more initiative. One 18-year-old, who at first became confused when somebody asked him even a simple question – “What is your name?” or “How are you?”, and couldn’t pronounce more than one word correctly, was making presentations at the end of the year and able to answer questions. Another student, too shy at first to talk to volunteers, was asking them questions and suggesting new topics.