How learning the English language can help refugees break barriers

LOS ANGELES — Sundios Satiouf and her family came to the United States from Jordan to escape the war in Syria. She’s been in SoCal for less than one year and learning how to speak and read English has been a challenge for her, especially while grocery shopping. But she’s found a way to improvise.

“I go to grocery store,” she said with a laugh. “It’s easy.”

As you can imagine, she and her children are fluent in Arabic. Now, she’s hoping her children will grasp the English language faster than she can. Since September, Amberly Gourlay, a Vanguard University student and College Corps fellow, volunteers and tutors Satiouf’s daughter once a week in English after school.

“My children do not speak any English, no do any homework. But after coming, the volunteer, it’s good,” she said.

Satiouf said after the tutoring sessions, she saw her daughter enjoy school again. Gourlay said she’s also seen a change after just a few months of sessions.”

“I’ve seen a lot of progress in reading and writing, knowing the alphabet and numbers and just general talking and communication has improved,” she said. “It’s been really cool to be a part of that process.”

Satiouf’s family is one of 320 refugee families receiving assistance from the nonprofit Voice of Refugees. The organization pairs newly arrived refugee families with after school tutoring, driving lessons, groceries and more. Chris Khoury is the executive director. He said volunteers like Gourlay are essential to helping these families navigate their new life in America.

“English is one of the pillars that we depend on for people to integrate and that’s the most needed tool for them to get a job, for them to go speak to their kids teachers or connect with the school that their kids are enrolled in,” Khoury said.

For Satiouf, it’s a chance for her children to move forward in their new surroundings.

“It’s very helpful for future, for life and for anything,” she said.

Even if she’s still learning herself along the way.


Posted on Spectrum News

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