An Emphasis on Literacy

Written by Lauren Timberlake, Bhutanese ESL Director

Many Americans are unaware of the lack of access to education some people have in other parts of the world. A number of the refugees we work with in the Bhutanese English classes know how to read and write in their native language, but many more of them do not. Political unrest, poverty, a lack of schools for girls, and needs at home are some of the factors that kept most adult refugees from graduating high school. Many did not finish or even attend primary school at all. As a result, literacy is a huge obstacle to information, employment, and citizenship for many.

We are taking steps to improve literacy in our English classes this term. Dry erase boards with letters and numbers to trace have become very popular with students. Some are learning letter sounds and sounding out words. Others are using early readers to gain more confidence. Our advanced students are reading citizenship textbooks to learn about American history and civics. It’s been a great challenge, and the students are so proud of what they are accomplishing. This will prepare them to tackle the reading and writing components of the citizenship exam.

One of my first memories working here was with a grandmother who had no idea how to hold a pencil. Now, she can write her name and address. She works every week on writing letters more clearly. Another student, a mother of 4, is learning to read and working towards citizenship. She was happy last week to be able to differentiate the words “amendment” and “America.”

Volunteer conversation partners are our greatest resource. One-on-one listening, speaking, reading and writing practice is a huge help for a non-native English speakers. Our volunteers do a great job of identifying student abilities and choosing appropriate reading and writing exercises from the options available in class.

Knowing the Bhutanese community has taught our staff and volunteers much about life across the globe. We have been blessed by their optimism, resilience, and willingness to learn new things at all stages of life. We are grateful to be coaches and cheerleaders as many learn to read for the first time.

In other news:

  • We took the Leaders in Training to Sky Zone indoor trampoline park last Monday as a reward for all of their hard work.  We love helping the kids discover that in life, hard work pays off!
  • This trimester there are 234 volunteers serving with Mission Adelante. Eighty three of them are immigrant members of our community!  We get really excited about this kind of fruit!

Prayer needs:

  • Please pray for Mission Adelante community members who will be sharing their testimonies in the English classes over the next few weeks.
  • Please pray for the Adelante Thrift Board as they continue to review leases and negotiate to determine the best space between two potential thrift locations. Our fundraising efforts will begin soon and we are seeking God’s guidance as we continue down the path of sustainable community development.

Current needs:

  • Our LIT students earn "Mission Adelante Money" for exemplary behavior and doing extra academic work, which they can spend at a Reward Store once each trimester.  We're in need of items by March 31 to stock that store!  Ideas include sports equipment, craft supplies, bedroom decorations, or any small item that would appeal to 8-14 year old students.  If you would like to contribute, please contact Megan McDermott at meganm@missionadelante.org or Kristen Maxwell at kristenm@missionadelante.org.
  • Operations Teams are Forming!  If you are interested in joining our facilities team (handy man projects) or IT Team (Think “Geek Squad”), please contact Sarah Winston at sarahw@missionadelante.org.  These roles are on an as-needed basis, and don’t require a weekly commitment.

Important dates:

  • Observation Days: Tuesdays, March 4 & 11 (Bhutanese)/Thursdays, March 6 & 13 (Latino) 6:30-8:30  Have you wondered what all goes on around here on a typical evening of programming?  Here's your opportunity to come and see for yourself!  Come on up to 22 S. 18th Street, Kansas City, KS 66102.
  • Spring Break: March 17-22 No programs.  The Mission Adelante office will be closed March 19-22.
  • Optional Bhutanese ESL Training: March 30th at 2:00 at Jenny Dunn’s house.  Email Jenny for details: jennyd@missionadelante.org.