RESIDENTS from afar-a-field as China have been getting to know the local customs with the help of a new church scheme.

St Aldhelm’s Church, on Spa Road, launched its new World Café last week to welcome Weymouth residents, born outside the UK, to get to know one another over drinks whilst learning the English language and informal aspects of British culture.

Coordinator Jane Gibbs said: “We had 12 people come along which we are really pleased with. They were from China, Estonia, Spain and Hungary so quite a wide range.

“On the surface of it, Weymouth and Portland is not filled with people from other countries, but there are more people under the radar than we think."

“The idea came up because we have a Chinese person in our congregation who is well aware of the need. She suggested it and I have just followed it on from there.

"We are very deliberately trying to counteract some of the wave of hatred in the wake of the Brexit vote."

The group welcomes people of all faiths, backgrounds and nationalities and also provides some childcare for visitors.

Jane said: “At the café we had a three stage process. It started with a welcome over coffee and a chat, then we had 45 minutes of more structured teaching around tables of the English language, then the last half an hour we had an informal chat and coffee again.”

The café is run by a team of volunteers with varying backgrounds in teaching either as retired teachers or teaching English as a foreign language.

Jane added: “Feedback from the first session was very positive. All the people said they were going to come back next week and bring their partner, spouse or friend.

“There is always a lot of anxiety about coming to something like this for the first time, so someone brave usually comes along first then they will spread the word. I think next week we will have a considerable number more.”

The session takes place in the front lounge of the church every Monday from 9.15am until 11am.