MSPs commend language project hosted by Glasgow church

The Rev Elijah Smith and students at the language cafe.

A language project hosted by a Church of Scotland congregation in Glasgow which brought together people of 15 different nationalities has been commended in the Scottish Parliament.

Ten cross-party MSPs have backed a motion hailing the success of a ten-week ESOL (English speakers of other languages) Cafe at Queen's Park Govanhill Parish Church – an initiative described as a "breath of fresh air".

Around 90 people took part in packed-out sessions to learn how to speak and write in English.

The project started in October and was spearheaded by David Zabiega and the Govanhill Community Development Trust, a subsidiary of the Govanhill Housing Association.

Other partners included Glasgow Life, Glasgow Clyde College, Community Renewal and Daisy Chain Early Years Project, a Govanhill based project run by the Church of Scotland's social care arm CrossReach.

The Rev Elijah Smith of Queen's Park Govanhill Parish Church said it was "encouraging" that work aimed at improving the lives of local residents had been recognised in the Scottish Parliament.

He said the district, which is on the southside of Glasgow, was a rich and diverse community with a unique set of strengths and challenges.

The motion was lodged by Glasgow Labour MSP Hanzala Malik who said project leaders must be congratulated for "bringing together different nationalities and celebrating different cultures".

It states that the café has "provided local residents with valuable skills that will improve their everyday lives and provide residents with better employment opportunities".

Mr Malik said: "This is a very important project and worthy of support.

"We are very quick to criticise but we are never happy to give people a small pat on the back to say 'well done and what you are doing is appreciated and we thank you for it'.

"People seem to undervalue the work churches and religious organisations do.

"This project is a breath of fresh air and means vulnerable people have a place that they can call home."

The café provided play and crèche facilities for younger children and a hot meal served up by local multicultural cookery social enterprise, Fusion Bites.

Local musicians and Big Noise Govanhill provided music with songs being used to develop English skills.

Mr Smith said: "As the parish minister, I have been blessed with the opportunity to explore and partner with the good work going on in Govanhill, including Queen's Park Govanhill's role in the planning and implementation of the ESOL Café.

"Our Daisy Street property has proven an invaluable asset to both the work of the local Kirk, as well as other church denominations and community organisations.

"It is encouraging for us here in Govanhill to see Hanzala Malik and other MSPs concerned with the work undertaken in our community.

"It is important that local and national bodies realise both the challenge and the promise of a large and diverse place like Govanhill as I am convinced that similar challenges and promises will become more common throughout Scotland in future."

Mr Smith said he was looking forward to the future of the district and its people with "great hope and earnest expectation".

Govanhill Community Development Trust chairwoman Lyn Ewing said: "The café and evening events have been hugely successful in bringing together different nationalities and celebrating different cultures.

"As well as helping to form real friendships, the café has taught local residents valuable English and literacy skills, which will help them in their everyday lives and hopefully open up employment opportunities."

Ms Ewing said talks were underway to discuss the possibility of continuing the café sessions this year.