In April 2009 a small group of Christians in Ellesmere Port gathered to think about ways to tackle social exclusion in the town, particularly issues of exclusion affecting young people. Within a month ‘Port Reach’, the Ellesmere Port branch of Worth Unlimited, had come into existence.
We have taken our time, building relationships with churches and organisations already working in Ellesmere Port, finding out in what ways we can help or add to the provision already in existence for young people.
Our primary focus is mentoring through the That Reading Thing programme and through individual contacts.
That Reading Thing is a one-to-one mentoring literacy programme delivered by youth workers and volunteers. We are working with pupils in year 6 to boost literacy before their transition to high school. Some of our volunteers are working with young adults.
One young man, Paul, came to us because his Grandmother heard one of our LMG members talking about TRT. She said that Paul had never been able to read, he had dyslexia and had gone to a special school. He was holding down a job but wanted to go in the army and couldn’t pass the English test. He had gone to the local college for group lessons and the teacher had told him he was un-teachable and he would never be able to read – could we help?
We started working with Paul, work was very slow and we had to go over the basic code in great detail. He worked shifts so we could only book in one lesson at a time, he couldn’t commit to the same time each week because his shifts constantly changed. After approximately 10 lessons Paul had another English test at the army. He passed. He came to the next lesson full of how it had gone; “Every time I struggled I could hear your voice saying, ‘it’s okay, take your time, slow down and say the sounds’. It was like you were there on my shoulder!”
We stopped after 18 lessons because it became increasingly hard to find time around Pauls shifts, but he had moved from not being able to read the word Coffee on a shop-sign, to being able to read the dialogue and instructions on his computer games, and the labels on the boxes which he needed to unpack for his work.