Building confidence and connections at the Learn Local

Omer Ntunzwenimana explains how an English conversation café class has helped him to look forward to a bright future

As a refugee arriving in Australia from Burundi (located in eastern Africa) in 2018, Omer Ntunzwenimana faced the many challenges that come with settling in a new country.

He had no family in Australia and did not feel confident in his English language skills.

In January 2020, Omer started attending the Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council Learn Local Conversation English and Reading Café class.

The weekly class gives participants the opportunity to practice their English by talking to volunteers in 10-minute rotations.

Omer explained how his English skills have improved since attending the class, giving him the confidence to progress in his education by studying at La Trobe University.

'The Conversation English and Reading Café class was helpful for me in having confidence to speak English and build my vocabulary. The volunteers explained to me the words I do not understand,' he said.

Omer also valued the opportunity to socialise and form connections with people in his local community.

'I am feeling I belong to the community, and it is the new home for me,' Omer said.

'The class reduces my depression as I meet with other people and have a chat.'

Omer surprised his trainers by quickly developing from a shy learner with low confidence in his English-speaking skills to a confident speaker and rapidly improving reader.

Talking about a brighter future

Omer is now studying a Bachelor of Arts majoring in sociology at La Trobe University.

His main goal is to help people and he proudly talks about what he would like to do when he finishes his studies.

'I am thinking about the poverty, the people who use drugs and alcohol, the people in conflicts which put many countries in war, and about working with refugees,' Omer said.

'Now, my dream is to become a peacemaker, and I am learning to find which things can be fixed to help establish peace.'

Looking ahead, Omer is excited about studying at university next year. 

'My ambition is to get skills for understanding the history and the contemporary situation (of conflicts),' he said.

'I am expecting that I will gain skills that can help me to realise my dream for helping people.'

In recognition of his hard work, Omer received The Ro Allen Award — Learn Local Pre-accredited Learner (skills for study and life) at the Learn Local Awards on Friday 10 December 2021.

Congratulations to Omer and all of this year's award recipients.

Find out more

For more information about the Learn Local sector including grants, funding, resources, professional development and events, visit Learn Local.

Omer Ntunzwenimana

Pictured: Omer Ntunzwenimana