Maximpact Expands Online English and Employment Classes to Support Syrian Refugees

Caroline Kennedy from Maximpact with Maximpact’s learners

BELFAST, Northern Ireland, May 7, 2020 – The global consultancy Maximpact will extend its innovative online programmes that help Syrian refugees to Northern Ireland learn English and prepare themselves for employment in their new homeland.

Northern Ireland went into lockdown on March 23 to keep the coronavirus from spreading during this ongoing global pandemic. Syrian refugees there are all in isolation and socially distanced, keeping themselves and others safe as the virus continues to spread.

To help ease their isolation, Maximpact is keeping classes going online during these difficult times of lockdown and Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, prayer and spiritual rejuvenation that started on April 23 and ends at sundown on May 23.

The online classes were developed and created by Maximpact specifically for the refugees.

By June, says Maximpact, the programme will have all six classes, from Pre Entry to High Intermediate, running at maximum capacity, providing English language learning for 48 Syrians.

In addition, three weekly support groups are run by Aisha Bakkar, one of the higher level students who was a special needs teacher in Syria. Since last August, Bakkar has been living with her husband and three daughters in Warrenpoint, a small port town in County Down, Northern Ireland.

Maximpact says that “to spark things up during this tough time,” we are introducing additional activities for the Syrian refugees.

First, there is now a story-telling group for Syrian children, which went online during lockdown  and is linked with the  Diversity Story Telling class called “Still I Rise” by Orla McKeating, delivered via Zoom. In April it featured a live online session with the renowned Syrian author and London resident Nadine Kaadan who introduced her new book, “Saving Stella.”

Kaadan was followed by Khalid Helal, one of the High Intermediate English students, reading from her book “The Jasmine Sneeze.”

Caroline Kennedy from Maximpact, says the event proved to be “a huge success,” with Syrian children joining from most of Northern Ireland’s six counties.

On May 13, Khalid and his daughter will be offering another reading in Arabic for all the children, both local and Syrian. Anyone can access this cultural event on Instagram or Facebook with these links

Also new this spring is an urban gardening project for five of the programme’s female students. They have all received seed boxes from Amazon to use for the project, and Maximpact has asked them to keep a diary of their progress. One of the women, Wejdan Ghazia, who is taking a Maximpact Beginner online English class, was a farmer in Syria, and she is sharing her knowledge with the others.

This exciting English language programme for helping Syrian refugees to integrate has grown from a very small beginning back in 2015 when Syrians began to be resettled into Northern Ireland.

Maximpact reached out to nongovernmental organizations in a voluntary capacity assisting with job placements. She then chaired a Skills and Employability subgroup for Stormont appointee Bryson Intercultural, a charity that promotes integration, human rights and equity through empowerment, collaboration and partnership.

Maximpact noticed that the Syrians’ highest barrier to integration was learning the English language. An additional barrier is that colleges tasked by the government with delivering English classes are not geared up to deal with learners whose first language is Arabic.

The Maximpact online English language and employment readiness programme began in May 2018 when Maximpact won funding from the UK’s Department for Economy for six Syrians to attend 80 hours of a class called Online English for Hospitality. At the end of the 80 hours they were all offered jobs in the hospitality industry.

Since then, Maximpact has further developed these programmes and expanded the levels of English for Arabic learners, adding creative ventures and working closely with NGOs and government departments in both Stormont and Westminster.

In October 2019, Maximpact ran a women’s clinic with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Belfast discussing the cultural needs of Syrian refugees with eight of the programme’s female learners. Maximpact says, “This was really interesting. The report should be published soon from the UNHCR.”

By January 2020, Maximpact’s English for Refugees programme had grown to six groups studying in 80-hour courses at multiple levels. The three teachers are either bilingual or have worked in Arabic-speaking countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Maximpact believes the hard work to extend these programmes has been very rewarding. “We experience first hand the impact on the lives of the beneficiaries and this is what makes it ALL worthwhile. We still have further plans on how to expand and add value for all.”

For more information, please contact:

Caroline Kennedy

Finding Protein to Feed 10 Billion

Broiler chickens raised for slaughter are crowded by the thousands into factory farm warehouses, January 3, 2008 (Photo by Farm Sanctuary)

By Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, January 8, 2019 ( News) – Sizzling juicy steaks, crispy fried chicken, tender pork sausages – all delicious but not sustainable as the world’s population balloons toward 10 billion finds new research conducted by the Oxford Martin School for the World Economic Forum.

In fact, meeting the world’s voracious and growing demand for protein through sources other than meat could prevent millions of deaths per year and sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the new report argues.

“It will be impossible to sustainably satisfy the world’s future demand for meat. What this report shows is that it can be possible to produce enough nutrition for 10 billion people and improve people’s health without necessarily giving up meat – even red meat – altogether, through innovation in products, improvements in how we produce beef, pork and chicken, and an effort on the part of the consumer to embrace a more diverse diet,” said Dominic Waughray, managing director of the World Economic Forum.


This year’s annual World Economic Forum runs from January 22-25 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. The Forum will convene 3,000 leaders from all parts of society to shape a new global architecture, which organizers are calling “the next wave of globalization, Globalization 4.0.”

The research on meat, published January 3 in the report “Alternative Proteins” finds that the nutritional needs for a future world population of 10 billion can be met sustainably, and with positive health consequences, through a combination of innovative protein sources, improved production systems and changed consumer behavior. It will be central to the discussions in Davos later this month.

The report is unique in its focus on both the human health and environmental impacts of meat consumption. For human health, the research finds that switching from beef to other protein sources could reduce the overall global burden of diet-related deaths by 2.4 percent, with that number climbing to five percent in high-income and upper-middle-income countries.

This will be increasingly important given the projected demand for meat from emerging middle classes. Demand for protein is set to soar, placing huge pressure on the environment.

In terms of environmental impact, 2010 data shows that production of beef alone was responsible for 25 percent of all food-related greenhouse gas emissions.

The 13 sources of protein analyzed in the report are: beef, pork and chicken; fruits and vegetables that can be eaten naturally or processed, such as beans and peas; processed non-animal substitutes such as tofu, wheat-gluten products or mycoprotein; and novel products such as culture meat, insects and alga spirulina.

Insects have been used in livestock feed, as flour, and in insect-based products such as energy bars. The report points out that Asia has a far longer history of using plant-based and insect-based products as high-protein alternatives to meat, “which would suggest people in this region may be predisposed to accept new non-animal alternatives.”

The report illuminates a striking difference between the greenhouse gas emissions of beef production and other sources of protein.

While beef has an emissions intensity of 23.9 kilograms of CO2 equivalent per 200k calories, beans, insects, wheat and nuts emit one kilogram or less CO2 equivalent for the same nutritional value.

Other sources, such as tofu, pork, alga and chicken, produce only three to six kilograms CO2 equivalent.

“Meat production as currently practiced globally is unsustainable at the projected levels of growth, and as such will require new approaches to reduce environmental impact and will require a shift to more sustainable diets,” said Michael McCain, president and CEO, Maple Leaf Foods, the Canadian consumer packaged meats company.

“Maple Leaf is committed to supporting consumer desire for more choices in their protein diet with plant protein-based foods providing an exciting path to both business and environmental value creation. In addition, we are equally committed to addressing the reconstruction of current meat production systems to ensure they fall in line with a sustainable future,” said McCain.

While the data highlights the positive health and environmental benefits of alternative proteins, it also details the scale of the challenge in building a more sustainable food system.

On the technical side, “producing meat in the laboratory without the involvement of living animals is a huge technical feat,” states the report. Only in the past decade have technologies advanced enough to make this conceivable, with forms of meat that might be used in products which traditionally contain minced meat such as burgers already quite advanced and projected to be available to the public in the next few years.

Yet, while lab-grown beef is seen by many as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to traditionally-reared beef, the report finds that current production methods are energy intensive.

The report notes that could be changed. As production processes mature and production is scaled up, leveraging renewable energy sourcing and localizing production in cities, the environmental benefits of lab-grown meat could be enhanced.

As important, a positive narrative around alternative proteins is also needed to change social thinking.

The report calls for transformation in four sectors:

  • The food industry, which is called on to invest in new alternative proteins to help scale up production and offer consumers a wider range of options
  • The livestock industry, which must work with others, including government, to develop incentives for farmers to adopt more sustainable production processes
  • The feedstock industry, where production must shift towards creating inputs for alternative proteins along withcreating more sustainable feedstock
  • Government and regulators, who must design rules to govern a wave of new alternative proteins to protect the public from health risks and unsubstantiated claims, and to support the various sectors in their transformations

“The evidence is clear, our food system needs to be transformed for the sake of our planet and the future of humankind,” said Marco Lambertini, director general, WWF International.

“And it’s urgent – we are the last generation that can do something about this before the system collapses,” Lambertini warned. “Finding alternative sources of protein that are healthy, nutritious and respectful of the planetary boundaries is a must.”

Featured image: Steak with peppercorns, December 30, 2018 (Photo by Gourmandise) Creative Commons license via Flickr