Youth Beat

Bringing English Language Learning to Refugees Worldwide


Rex Board Member Rosalie Howarth on the work of Charlotte Knox and Teach English Now:

Around the world, refugee camps are full of people fleeing desperate circumstances in their home countries, only to find a new set of problems as the camps’ meager resources are strained and migrants try to figure out their next step. In navigating the numerous agencies and bureaucracies involved, being able to speak English is a huge benefit to refugees, both to advocate for themselves and their families and to help them more easily adapt in their new homes. Many refugees are asylum-seekers, and a little English helps them get a hearing more quickly.

Charlotte Knox and Rosalie Howarth at The Fillmore

Charlotte Knox and Rex Board member Rosalie Howarth at The Fillmore. Photo: Alan Sheckter

For some years, English language instructor Charlotte Knox has been volunteering with refugees in poor areas around the world, developing and refining a method of language instruction in a bare-bones classroom with no books, nothing but a chalkboard. Designed to work  for teachers who may have few resources or skills themselves, her approach offers a life-changing resource for many as they struggle to rebuild their lives.

“It’s simply a set of teaching strategies for language learning that are easily implemented and much more engaging than the typical rote/memorization routines that teachers with no training fall back on,” Charlotte explains.

And, thanks to a Rex grant, it’s now online so ESL teachers around the world can put the same practices to work with their own students. Rex sent a videographer, Claudia Estrada Niles from grantee Youth Beat (which trains underserved Oakland young people for careers in digital and broadcast media), to  the Moria camp in Greece, where Charlotte had previously visited and seen the extreme need.  Recording  her class as it happened. Youth Beat then used a grant from Rex to pay for production of the videos and uploading them to YouTube, so English teachers and learners can acquire the skills and techniques to help them improve their lives.

Since most people in the developing world don’t have access to computers but do have pay-as-you-go cell phones with internet access, putting the videos on YouTube makes them available to any teacher or student who could benefit from them.

See the results (and share them!) here. Here’s an example:

Meanwhile, Charlotte’s already planning to return to Moria in the fall to carry on her work there.