by Peter Jarrett

For quite some time now, UUFP has had an ongoing relationship with La Clairière, which is a Protestant Community Center in the middle of Paris. For example, we have brought them member-donated toys at Christmas time.

We have also provided volunteers to lead conversation classes in English to whomever wishes to participate. I myself joined this group not quite a year ago. The sessions are on Monday afternoons from 2pm to 3:30pm. We try to have a group of four UUFP people so that each of us needs to do only a single session per month. Beth O’Connell has been the organizer, and Elaine McCarthy is another long-time volunteer. We lost our fourth last summer when Italo Marchini left Paris to take up residence in Spoleto, Italy, and we have been searching for an additional person since then.

Generally this class has about 8 regular attendees, along with a few visitors who may attend for just a session or two. Most are French, but not all. The students who register for our group can be newcomers, freelancers or unemployed people who want to polish their English-language skills for bilingual job offers, as well as retired people who want to have English as a second language when they travel.

Their level of English varies, but all can follow along, even if the conversation moves at a pace that means their contributions may be limited. Topics are the choice of the leader, but we often go off on a tangent, because that is what they desire. They enjoy one another’s company. Someone who has been traveling may bring small souvenirs and photos to pass around, and occasionally someone brings sweets to share; all are looking forward to the annual Christmas party that will take place on December 16. It’s quite casual and it’s also about improving pronunciation, understanding and feeling at ease in English.

I am sure that other EUU people could organize such an effort in their communities around Europe. Everybody wants to improve their level of English, and volunteers get a unique path into the society of their adopted homelands. Highly recommended!