The long-awaited IATEFL 2016 conference has started but not all teachers have been able to make it to Birmingham, dispersed as we are all over the globe. Fortunately all the sessions and interviews are being recorded and so IATEFL Online makes the conference accessible to everyone - a real service to all of us who stayed at home!
The sessions are all obviously related to the teaching profession and depending on our interests there is something exciting for everyone. However, one person stands out of the crowd with her HEART ELT Project, driving ELT teachers to join forces towards social change rather than teaching itself - Julie Pratten.
Nik Peachey interviewed Julie about her initiative to raise funds for her project: opening a school for Syrian refugee children in a refugee camp in Iraq. She started by explaining that initially all she needed was to find a place where the children, up to age 17, could meet and play together in a safe learning environment. So she posted a few requests to her Personal Learning Network PLN for donations of 10 - 15 euro but soon felt she could ask no more. Subsequently she set up three successful crowdfunding projects, one of which is still under way. But it is difficult to continuously ask people for money, she explained. Then she came upon the idea of asking a series of teachers to donate simple, fun ELT activities for a book to be sold in order to raise funds for this school which should bring HOPE for a brighter future: The A-Z of Hope.
She said the response was overwhelming and by evening she had 26 different photocopiable activities, one page of teacher's notes and one of the activity itself, divided according to the letters of the alphabet. This book will be published by the end of April and the proceeds will go towards improving the HEART SCHOOL as it is called. At the beginning all they needed was a place to meet, some desks and chairs, a teacher and some pencils and paper. Only refugees are allowed in the camp so the teacher is a refugee herself.
A goal of the project is to create webinars with which to teach other teachers and parents so that they can teach the children themselves. The response to the call for help was so overwhelming that translators volunteered to translate the teacher's notes in the book as well as the future webinars into Arabic & Kurdish to make them more accessible. Since the book will be sold all over the world, Julie had to pay special attention to making sure the activities are appropriate to all different cultures and social classes as there can't be an activity eliciting, "I went shopping and bought an iPhone," or one that does not respect cultural differences. The response also came from illustrators, editors, bloggers and many others who offered to help in some way.
Julie says that this is only the beginning, that HEART ELT will bring together people for social change to fund other projects in future.
Nik ended the interview asking where one can buy the book. heartelt.org is the website Julie has set up for this purpose and you can find out more about the project by visiting it.
You can watch the interview at: http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2016/interview/interview-julie-pratten#sthash.dpbYRguH.dpuf
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My name is Susan Brodar, born in London into a multilingual family and brought up bilingual English / Italian.