Heather Harries is breaking language barriers in Central Otago.
Ms Harries, originally of Kenya, has joined the team at Central Otago Reap as its ESOL tutor.
ESOL, which stands for English for Speakers of Other Languages, is offered through Reap’s literacy and Adult and Community Education (ACE) programme, to assist people who want to improve their English speaking and literacy skills.
Ms Harries, who has spent the majority of her life in east Africa, knows first hand just how challenging it can be trying to manage in a new community.
However, her fluent English and qualifications in speech language therapy and English language teaching (Celta) has equipped her to pass her skills on to others.
She studied in Christchurch before returning to Kenya where she taught speech and drama and worked in a boarding school before returning to New Zealand two and a-half years ago.
Central Otago Reap manager Bernie Lepper said a wide variety of people had called on the ESOL service in the past.
She said in some cases one family member might have good English while the other did not use English well.
Other people might want to improve their English so they could feel confident going out more, to go shopping, or to sit a driving test.
Another example was someone who wanted a higher level of English so they could get a tertiary education in New Zealand.
Ultimately, Ms Harries’ role would help people transition into the community and build confidence.
Mrs Lepper said ESOL helped give people a ‘‘sense of belonging’’.
‘‘It’s not just about the language.’’
Ms Harries said because she had spent the majority of her life outside New Zealand she could relate to what many people who had English as a second language were going through.
She said it was common to feel you do not belong, while also facing the challenges that come with learning a new culture and way of life — and ‘‘still hold on to who you are’’.
‘‘I’m quite excited about helping them on that journey.’’
ESOL is provided to people at no cost if they are citizens or residents.
People on a work permit can also use the service, but there is a fee.
Ms Harries aims to run a group course for six weeks, which will include general communication skills to help improve their everyday English.
One-on-one tuition is also available.
Mrs Lepper welcomes anyone who knows of someone who would benefit from ESOL to get in touch with Central Otago Reap at Community House.