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Welcoming Through Literacy

Imagine arriving in a new country. You don’t speak or read the language. In fact, you never had the opportunity to learn to read in your native language. Where would you begin? 

For decades, local churches and organizations like World Relief have stepped in to help, providing English classes to equip refugees and other immigrants with skills they need to navigate their new communities. However, few programs have addressed the needs of newcomers arriving with little to no literacy in their native languages. 

In FY23, we responded to this need, leveraging over two decades of experience at World Relief Chicagoland to develop Foundations of Literacy, an innovative curriculum that will have a profound impact on some of the most vulnerable and isolated immigrants in the U.S.

Created under the leadership of Robyn Hacket, World Relief’s curriculum and adult literacy specialist, the curriculum first helps teachers identify where students need the most support across various modes of literacy, including written alphabets, numeracy, symbols and more.

The curriculum then maximizes students’ existing strengths while preparing them for literacy-based environments. “Our students tend to have amazing abilities,” said Robyn. “If we can meet the way they prefer to learn, they’re going to learn just as effectively and better.” 

For churches and communities committed to “welcoming the stranger,” the impact of the Foundations curriculum can be exponential. When immigrants connect with programs that meet their specific needs, they feel more welcome and are more likely to succeed. This leads to better jobs, increased access to community resources and more. 

So far, 70 World Relief staff have been trained on best practices for working with emergent literacy learners and the curriculum is available in 17 English classes through our U.S. offices. Soon, we hope to make it available to English teachers, churches and organizations beyond World Relief.

Thanks to support from people like you, we’re able to make these learners, who often feel forgotten, feel welcome instead. As Robyn remembers one student sharing, “Now I feel like I can participate … You taught us how to do this.”

At World Relief, we’re able to invest in life-changing innovations like the Foundations of Literacy Curriculum because of generous support from partners like you. Will you give a gift today so, together, we can ensure those on the margins have access to the resources they need to thrive?

Kelly Hill is the Senior Content Writer at World Relief. She previously served as Volunteer Services Manager at World Relief Triad in North Carolina. With a background in International and Intercultural Communication, she is passionate about the power of story to connect people of diverse experiences. 

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