SUPPORT NETWORK: Stanthorpe's Evita Shen has been offering to help Chinese-speaking backpackers learn English after noticing a huge interest out there.
SUPPORT NETWORK: Stanthorpe's Evita Shen has been offering to help Chinese-speaking backpackers learn English after noticing a huge interest out there. Contributed

Backpacker English lessons a surprise hit in Stanthorpe

A STANTHORPE-BASED animal lover has been offering English lessons to backpackers so they can phone for help if they find injured animals.

Evita Shen said she decided to help Chinese-speaking backpackers learn English after noticing a huge interest among these visitors in the welfare of native wildlife.

"Backpackers drive a lot, so they see a lot of roadkill,” Ms Shen said.

"We get phone calls asking what they can do when they find a joey.”

There was an information gap, she said, where holiday workers didn't feel confident to make phone calls or be part of local community events such as those run by wildlife carers.

Two Chinese language Facebook pages provide a forum for holiday workers visiting the Stanthorpe region, Ms Shen said.

"I have seen many people commenting ... about seeing a koala or seeing a kangaroo, so I think holiday workers are very interested in native animals,” Ms Shen said.

She said conversations on these social media sites reveal a lack of confidence in approaching locals and going to events like those run by GBWC for fear of being misunderstood or not understanding what is being said.

Ms Shen thinks it would be great if visitors for whom English was a second language could learn more English skills, so they could confidently order food at cafes, be more of a part of the community during their stay and contribute to the local economy.

She is using her English lessons to muster donations for Granite Belt Wildlife Carers and share information about local wildlife.

Her English classes have been popular, with 15 people at the last session, most of whom were strawberry farm workers.

"I think people get quite a lot out of it,” she said.

For some of the students, learning to improve their English was the main motivation whereas others were more interested to meet some wildlife, she said.

Sponsored by local law firm Park and Co Lawyers which provided a venue and advertising help, the casual class costs $5 and higher level class $10, raising $150 per session for GBWC.

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