On October 15th and 16th, over 20 Evergreen YAYAs, students, and community members attended a ten hour volunteer training to learn how to tutor adult immigrant learners in English.
Friday night was spent learning about the work of Mason County Literacy, a non-profit, largely volunteer run organization that has been in operation for nearly 20 years. MCL and Thurston County Bookends utilize about 150 volunteers to provide free instruction to adults wishing to earn a GED, learn English as a second language, or improve their math and literacy skills. Participants read oral histories prepared by ESL students and talked about the different challenges and strengths that can shape the immigrant experience.
Participants wrote down obstacles that immigrants face in the U.S. in blue ink and the strengths that they possess to overcome them in red ink.
We also discussed the different reasons that people emigrate from their home countries and the unique place that many immigrants find themselves in when they come to the United States seeking refuge from persecution and can never return home. A shared experience we found in the oral histories was the sense of loneliness and isolation; finding ordinary acts such as a trip to the grocery store completely intimidating because you cannot communicate with others.
On Saturday, Crystal Ashley-an ESL faculty member at South Puget Sound Community College- taught the group many different games and exercises that can be adapted to fit the needs and level of our individual students and how to incorporate reading, listening, writing, and speaking into our lessons. For half an hour Crystal only spoke to the group in Farsi- allowing us the opportunity become the student/outsider- and showed us how you can communicate concepts without the use of a common language.
Before this training I had given some thought to the implied privilege I have by being able to speak, understand, and read English. I thought about how difficult it would be for me to navigate my daily life if I was living in a place where I could not communicate with the vast majority of my peers. At this point in my life I am relatively unencumbered: I don’t have a job, drive a car, pay utilities separate from rent, care for family members, or have children yet. Adult immigrant learners attend ESL classes in addition to fulfilling their responsibilities as parents, spouses, employees, and community members and I am excited to use my privilege as a native speaker to give someone else the tools to access the resources around them and achieve their goals.
Event sponsored by Evergreen YAYA and The Center for Community Based Learning and Action (CCBLA)