“You Are Going Help Me?”

reposted from March 22, 2012

I answer the phone, and it is Stella from West Whiteland. “I need you help,” she says to me with a bubbly Spanish accent. “I find you paper and my friend tell me I can learn. Please I be in your program?” She is so happy, so hopeful, on the other end of the line. Stella wants to be a student, like the 3-4 people PER DAY who call our office or stop in to see us. I brace myself and tell Stella, compassionately, that she has called the right place, but that we have so many students on our waiting list right now that we cannot even bring her in for an appointment until three weeks from now. Even then, with 50-60 students from around the world waiting eagerly for tutors, it might take several months to place her.

Stella does not have the luxury to wait. She told me that she is from Ecuador, and that she used to be a nanny for American families; however, a close friend suffered a stroke last summer, and since then, Stella is her main care-giver. She can no longer fulfill the duties of being a nanny, and other jobs are not available to her due to her limited English skills. She needs a better job, and she wants to communicate with doctors and her community without feeling lost or misunderstood.

I schedule Stella for her intake appointment in three long weeks, and I notice how deflated her spirit sounds. After we say our goodbyes and she thanks me, I begin to hang up, but I hear Stella’s breaking voice one more time, saying, “You are going help me? You try? Please?”

Stella’s story is one in far-too-many. Sura from India moved here with her husband when he was transferred for his work, but she had to leave her 2 year old son in India so that she can complete her medical degree; however, without the English skills she needs, it is taking far too long to accomplish that goal, and her son is so far away. Grogan from Belarus was a teacher in his native country; here he struggles with English as he tries to get citizenship and make a living as a produce delivery driver. Marisella from Puerto Rico came here as a child and worked alongside her mother as a migrant worker. She married a man and had three children before he deserted her. Now she works as a maid and worries about supporting her family, communicating to the teacher, and helping the children with homework. Our office pile of “student profiles” from which tutors choose is so thick, each page telling a heartbreaking story of economic need and social struggle, of voices desperately needing to be heard.

We have the students waiting to be tutored. We have the skills to train people to teach them, the materials and lessons to guide the process. What we do not have is tutors. Please consider volunteering your time, 3 hours a week, to change a life.

by Patricia Morgioni, Program Coordinator

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