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Immigrants on adult literacy course take to the sea!

An adult literacy service mainly used by immigrants is using the wonders of the sea to improve English language skills.

The Galway Adult Basic Education Service (GABES) of the Galway and Roscommon Education and Training Board (GRETB) provides support for people who need help to improve their literacy, numeracy and digital skills.

Where there are nationalities from all over the world as well as Irish people who may have experienced difficulties in school using the service, for over a year there has been a major influx of Ukranians attending classes.

In order to add an element of “innovation and collaboration within our community”, Youth Officer at GRETB Training Centre, Róisín McLoughlin, devised “a living literacy project” with partners including the Galway Hooker Sailing Club and Galway Bay Boat Tours.

Called beo 2023, the series of workshops pivot around the meaning of the Irish word ‘beo’, which translates to be alive or to live.

“The idea was to enhance the learners’ sense of wellbeing and belonging through the practical application of literacy, numeracy and digital skills and connecting with the community,” she explains.

“Learners get the opportunity to forge a new sense of identity and foster a sense of belonging in their community. The content covered varies from the history and cultural significance of the Claddagh area, Irish customs and language, water safety, gastronomy with Galway Bay Sea Foods and City Sushi, to the building of the Galway Hooker boats and their heritage to this day.”

The 60 students – whose nationalities included Ukrainian, Algerian, Syrian, Congolese, Romanian, Spanish, Brazilian, Croatian – were taught digital skills by using apps to create teaching and learning resources about the project itself. The course was based at the GABES headquarters on New Dock Street.

Six tutors were involved including Ciaran Oliver, Collette Furey and Elizabeth Steede of Galway Hooker Sailing Club.

“We place the learner in an environment where they can enhance these skills through practical application. It is about forging a new sense of community for all involved and it actively promotes global citizenship, inclusion and diversity,” Roisin says.

“By elevating the learner’s sense of identity and belonging, they get an enriched understanding of Galway through a cultural, geographical, anthropological and biodiversity lens.”

During the workshops, learners were brought on a guided cultural tour of the Claddagh, they examined maps of the bay, they learned about the different types of Hookers and the materials and tools utilised in the boat building process.

“We visited Galway Bay Seafoods where we learned about the diverse range of seafoods to be found in the bay and how that is evolving, we learned about the history of the port and how it is controlled by the tides, the learners were taken on a trip around the bay and back to the Claddagh, where the biodiversity of the area along with the changing city scape was discussed.”

Róisín says tutors are already witnessing the positive impact the project is having in transforming people’s lives.

“One of the students, Alexandor from Mariupol, a mechanical engineer from Ukraine, described his participation in the project as wonderful and exciting and planned to continue developing his skills from beo 2023 through volunteering with Galway Hooker Sailing Club. He is studying basic English in GABES.

“He was even able to help out with an issue on one of the boats.”

While the service is free through GABES, it has proved to be so popular there is now a waiting list in “We are already planning a continuation of the project for this current academic year,” she confirms.

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