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When Persistence Pays Off

Our refugee women’s English class had been in session for two weeks when they came, a couple from Afghanistan inquiring if there was room for one more. The husband asked if his wife could join too. The class was full, but our instructor added her name to our waitlist and promised to call if anything changed. 

Next week the same couple returned—was there room? The husband explained that his wife was alone at home and needed to be in this class to be with friends and learn English.  He insisted that he could even stay home from work and take care of their child.

Two weeks later, the husband called to ask if there was space and could we please help his wife. We wished we had a different answer for him other than that the class was still full.

Next week, the wife came to class with a friend already enrolled in the class. She had heard through friends that just yesterday a woman had dropped out. Could she take her spot? She promised to study hard and do anything she could to catch up. Of course, the spot was hers. The shift was clear in just a few short weeks— a woman who felt isolated now had a space where she could practice English, connect with others and feel a newfound sense of belonging.

The women in our English classes overcome hardship, trauma, language barriers and so much more to establish their new lives and homes. This week we took our first field trip to the local pharmacy, what many of us would consider just another errand. Most of our students had never spent much time in a U.S. pharmacy because they found it too overwhelming and different from ones they had experienced in Afghanistan. Together we went and saw firsthand the types of medicines available, practiced asking the pharmacist questions about different options based on theirs or their children’s symptoms.

We took what we studied in the classroom and practiced in the real world, but in a way that felt safe and comfortable for the group. A passerby might barely have noticed us save that we were a larger than normal group in the small pharmacy, but for our students it was a hard-earned step towards greater self-sufficiency and confidence.

What started as one English class for a dozen refugee women in 2018 has blossomed into four different sites across Sacramento County. Someday we hope there are dozens more sites serving hundreds of refugee and immigrant women. These classes are made possible through dedicated volunteers and generous community partners like Sutter Health who are helping new Americans navigate a healthcare system that once felt foreign and inaccessible.

Join us in 2020 as we create lasting change in the lives of refugees and immigrants. Just $65 supports a week of English class for one of your new neighbors, or learn more about volunteering in programs like our Refugee Women’s English.

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