A place to meet, learn, share and support

The ESL Cafe

The ESL Cafe

New this summer of 2018

ESL Cafe is proud to introduce a new pilot project we call ESL Companions!

The ESL Cafe is starting a new program we call ESL Companions in which we match up friendly established native English speakers with refugee and immigrant singles of the same sex or families looking for a local friend.

We envision working with locally established refugee/immigrant organizations to help identify good candidates for this pilot project. We would hope to match up volunteers with someone in their area. A leader or other volunteer from one of our organizations would be present for an initial meetup, then from there the volunteer and family would work out how their in-home get togethers would look and what kinds of things would be most helpful for the new arrivals.

**Warning: this kind of thing often includes drinking lots of tea or coffee together, eating yummy treats, playing with friendly children and becoming intimately connected with a person or family you can’t imagine not having known before you ventured down this unknown path.**

While we are initially starting this in the Portland area, we would love to hear about interest from other areas as well.

Please fill out this form to get started as an ESL Companion.

For Our Guests (English learners)

We welcome you! We are glad we are your neighbors and want to get to know you. We offer a friendly relaxed place to meet and talk while enjoying coffee and tea. We have two locations: one in Portland next to Portland Community College (southeast 82nd Avenue campus) and in Vancouver, Washington. See below for more information.


Locations & Times

  1. SE Portland: Mocha Express on 1951 SE 82nd Ave (just north of Portland Community College). Every Thursday 11AM-1PM. Please note we are not meeting regularly during the summer.
  2. Vancouver, WA: Fred Meyers cafe on SE 164th. 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month from 10-12.
  3. In-home visits available upon request.

For Our Volunteers

Instruction for volunteers for the Mocha Express location:

  1. Get approved to volunteer. This includes a few basic questions and a reference referral.
  2. Choose your preferred dates/times via the sign-up form.
  3. Show up a bit in advance to starting time if possible.
  4. Find the sandwich board behind the inside door at the entrance. Put that outside on the sidewalk to advertise that The ESL Cafe is open. A box of resources is under the stairs in a pretty grey box.
  5. Find the table sign near the computers and put that in the area in which you will be meeting.
  6. Sit facing the entrance so you can see potential ESL learners who may not know where to go. You can welcome them in a friendly manner and help get them seated.
  7. Order a cup of something hot. ESL guests can do the same. Keep a tab. Volunteers can pay for this, then submit to Tim for reimbursement (keep the receipt).
  8. Have fun! Ask the guests if they have anything they are working on currently or questions they may have about English that you can help with. If not, just ask about their life and talk about yours. (You do not need to pair up one-on-one. In fact, having a group of English learners talking to each other as well as a native English speaker is better.)
  9. Feel free to bring games (we will have Uno and Jenga in the box by mid February) that can be useful for getting to know one another or working on English. After general chitchat, feel free to dive into the boxes to direct conversation towards a certain topic (like food, animals, school, family, sports, etc.)
  10. Please note that food items will not be paid for by The ESL Cafe, but please feel free to get what you want and give Mocha Express more business.

Instruction for volunteers for Vancouver (Fred Meyers cafe, 16600 SE McGillivray Blvd, Vancouver, WA):

  1. Get approved to volunteer. This includes a few basic questions and a reference referral.
  2. Contact Grace by email at TheESLCafeVancouver@gmail.com to coordinate.


We welcome donations that go towards basic supplies and refreshments. “The ESL Cafe” has fiscal sponsorship from Visions Made Viable, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization (tax ID number: 26-2214003).  Fiscal sponsorship means that The ESL Cafe has legal and tax exempt status under a sponsoring organization which has agreed to offer us administrative support, freeing up our energy to be directed exclusively at achieving our mission. Our fiscal sponsor is Visions Made Viable, a 501(c)3 non-profit based in California and committed to helping seed projects launch, and many of which “spin-off” to become independent non-profits.

Donations by check should be sent to 17595 Harvard Avenue #C235, Irvine, CA 92614. Checks can be made out to The ESL Cafe Project.

Donations by PayPal can visit this link: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=AQU7HACXZWG3L


We don’t yet offer any in-person training, but we do recommend you take this free 2-hour online training from The Refugee Center Online.

We also link to a number of instructional videos on our Facebook page that can help you learn more about refugees/immigrants/international students in the U.S.

Contact Info

  • TheESLCafePDX@gmail.com | TheESLCafeVancouver@gmail.com
  • organizer: Tim Cowley, 503.329.3052
  • on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/theeslcafe/

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