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Jacari Stories: Kateryna and Sasha

9-year-old Kateryna* arrived in Bristol with her family, having fled conflict in Ukraine in June 2022. She was referred to Jacari by her school teacher as she didn’t speak any English and needed extra support to help her learn the language and adapt to her new life and school. Jacari was able to quickly match Kateryna to a volunteer, Sasha, who is an Education student at the University of the West of England. Sasha was an ideal match for Kateryna as she speaks Russian.

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Picking up English as a new language has understandably required some effort. Staying on track with schoolwork and growing her confidence and language skills posed a challenge at first. Matching Kateryna with Sasha has significantly accelerated her development and self-confidence. Currently studying at University to be a primary school teacher, Sasha uses creative teaching techniques during lessons to help Kateryna with her speaking and writing skills which continue to improve. She told us:  'There has been a massive improvement in her speaking and writing skills since we started working together. I can see she takes the lessons to heart and is committed to getting even better.'


An above average fluency in Russian helps Sasha smooth things along and gives Kateryna the confidence she needs to navigate the learning curve. The one to one sessions at home have given Kateryna the opportunity to express herself better and benefit from a tailored learning structure that targets her strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Sasha and Kateryna work on speaking, writing, vocabulary, and grammar exercises during their sessions. The lesson plan is a nod to Kateryna’s love of word association and game-based learning activities.


Kateryna's mum has seen some notable differences in Kateryna’s language skills since she started her sessions with Sasha. 'I noticed that she will try to use English more often and associate her words with what she gains from Sasha’s lessons. She is more open to having discussions in English which she didn’t always like to do'

Learning is not strictly serious business; however, there’s always some fun to be had and Kateryna particularly enjoys doing creative activities with Sasha. 'I enjoy the crafts during our lessons. We make many fun characters. Pinkie Pie is my favourite!' said Kateryna. Pinkie Pie is a female Earth pony and main character of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The cartoon character has served as inspiration for several cutouts and makes an appearance at lessons too! The craft-making, however, isn’t just for fun alone. It allows Kateryna to experience and explore the English language from a different perspective. This allows her to approach peer conversations with more gusto and thrive in her social circles.

More important to observe was the natural friendship between Sasha and Kateryna. Spending time with them shows how much work has gone into creating a safe space for Kateryna to thrive. The arrangement is not dissimilar from a mentor-mentee relationship. Mum agrees and says Kateryna looks forward to her sessions with Sasha:

'She is always excited when it’s time for the lessons. Even today, she kept counting down the minutes until lesson time.'

One only has to see the radiant smiles present during lessons to understand the impact that the tutoring sessions have on both the tutor and the tutee. Kateryna is now getting the help she needs outside the classroom and is well on her way to mastering the English language. She won’t be slowing down anytime soon, and that is a Pinkie Promise!

*all names of pupils in our Jacari Stories have been changed

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