People from places as diverse as Hong Kong and Ukraine have received a warm welcome at a 'language café' in Irvine - where they are learning English and making friends.

While they might initially have felt worlds apart, they now meet up regularly for a tea or coffee and help each other improve their English.

The weekly meeting was set up with support from North Ayrshire Council after members of the 'New Scots' community asked for an opportunity to boost their language skills in an informal and relaxed setting.

Daljit Kaur, who runs the Temple of Art Café in Irvine, was only too happy to offer the group a place to meet - and they now get together at her Bank Street spot every Wednesday afternoon from 3.30pm to 5.30pm.

Irvine Times:

Now those who go along can find out what community activities are happening in their area, get help from volunteers to fill in paperwork including library application forms, improve their English skills by chatting to each other as well as to the Scottish and Syrian volunteers - and find out about council services and support.

Volunteer Robert Donnelly, from Irvine, who supports refugees with their spoken English and reading, said: “I help with language classes as part of the ESOL programme.

"They are really great - amazing people with a thousand different stories.”

Sum Ming Chan, from Hong Kong, attends the café, saying: “I come for studying English and meeting new people. There are lots of volunteers to help us to study and we enjoy the café.”

The council’s ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) experts and New Scots team, which supports people from countries including Syria and Ukraine who are settling into life in North Ayrshire, are involved in the sessions and Police Scotland have attended to chat informally to the group.

Café regular Yevgen Koziy, from Ukraine, said getting better at English is his main goal but he also likes the social aspect, adding: “We are acquainted with Scottish people, we better understand their culture, how they live and we enjoy their hospitality. It is a great privilege to come here.”

Volunteer Elsa Dwyer, 17, from Irvine, explained: “I first decided to start volunteering here because I wanted to have some input with the refugee community. I’ve noticed everybody’s English improving quite a lot.”

Daljit added: “A space was needed where people could interact informally, and I was happy to help. Initially, there were not too many people but now it is busy, and it is great to see them here.”

Irvine Times:
Dalry woman Frances Gourlay, 90, goes along to the café after hearing about it through a friend and enjoys the company.

She said: “I live in sheltered housing and I enjoy the change of scene. I used to be in a Friends of Refugees group, so I have friends from places like Uganda and Azerbaijan. I know other people from far-away places.”

Councillor Alan Hill, cabinet member for communities and islands, said: “It is fantastic to have something like this available, for people from all over the world, here in Irvine.

"It is helping them to integrate into the community, make friends and communicate better.

“I think it's great that we've got people aged from 17 all the way up to 90 attending – either to improve their English or volunteer - from all different nationalities and backgrounds.

"I would like to say ‘thank you’ to the volunteers and participants who have helped make this a success.”

Irvine Times:
If you would like to volunteer, or attend the Language Café, simply head along to The Temple Of Art Cafe, 27 Bank St, Irvine, on a Wednesday afternoon.

If you know someone whose first language isn’t English and needs support with their English, you can complete a short referral form online here:

If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering opportunities across North Ayrshire to help New Scots improve their English and integrate into their community, you can fill in a form here: