A Darfuri mother
Large Arabic-speaking families from Darfur have been among recent refugee arrivals in San Diego. School children frequently arrive with no English, and often with no experience of formal education. If the only language they know does not use our alphabet, where do they begin?
An Episcopal Refugee Network's outreach worker delivering food to a Darfuri family, encountered a ten-year-old who begged to be taught "her ABCs". She had been at school here for five months, but she was in a large class, where everyone else spoke Spanish. She was beginning to pick up some spoken English, but had no way to learn how to read or write. At school, she had been placed in front of a computer, loaded with ESL programs, but she could not read anything on the screen.
The Network had three tutoring groups, which had been running for several years, serving mostly Karen-speaking children. Recently a new group was added for Darfuri high school students. We knew they would need one-on-one help, to understand homework assignments and to catch up on knowledge they would be expected to have. The ten-year-old joined this group and now has the Network's ESL specialist as her special tutor. She glowed with achievement as she took home her book with some of "her ABCs" already mastered, and some words she now knew how to read.
The next week, another ten-year-old, with the same needs joined the group. We expect more junior high school children now, and a new influx of high school children with the start of the new school year, in August. Bhutanese children, with a different language structure, and yet another religious background, will be among them. It is a challenge, requiring variable lesson plans and materials, and willing volunteer tutors, who are good at listening and encouraging. But the rewards are great. As one tutor put it, "Where else do you get to see such a sudden burst of the light of understanding in someone's eyes? And where else do you know so clearly, that someone now really believes he can succeed?"
Our outreach workers collect the children from their schools, in the Network's vans and bring them to tutoring, translate when necessary during tutoring, and drive the children home. They are able to interface with the mothers, most of whom do not yet speak English, and to ensure that family members who need help get what they need.
A big thank you to our donors, who provide necessary funds, and items and services that refugees in transition so greatly need.
Mother and child coming for food