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Another Kind of Independence

The string of firecrackers detonated in a profusion of noise, flashes and flying bits of paper—a common enough scene, repeated countless times around the country this past Fourth of July as Americans celebrated their nation’s independence. 

What was less common about this particular pyrotechnic display was that the fuse wasn’t lit by an American at all, but by a young Guatemalan mother who had arrived in Bellingham just two weeks prior via the US Refugee Admissions Program.

She beamed as she walked away from the firecrackers, lighter in hand—clearly a fan of loud noises and small explosions.  This mother, along with her husband and three young kids, had spent the day celebrating with new friends in a new country, facing a new reality set out before her family.  A memorable Independence Day indeed.

The next day, this family showed up at our World Relief office location in Bellingham to pursue a different sort of independence. Joining together with several other refugee families, they came to attend our Family Literacy program in Whatcom County. 

Designed to help parents and kids pursue English literacy side-by-side, the Family Literacy Program has already been a great success in King County and we are thrilled to offer a pilot version of the class this summer while we grow our fledgling resettlement program in Whatcom County. 

The independence that English literacy offers to families like this may not be as loud and flashy as a string of firecrackers, but its effects will be felt for generations to come.

Steven Shetterly has been managing World Relief’s efforts in opening a resettlement office location in Bellingham (Whatcom County), Washington since 2021. Steven has several years of ESL teaching experience, both in the United States as well as overseas, and has been involved in cross-cultural work in one capacity or another for most of his adult life.  Steven has a BA in Spanish and Political Science from Western Washington University, an MA in TESOL from Wheaton College.

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