Thursday, January 28, 2010


So I teach ESL to homeless adults.  My students are mostly women just leaving abusive husbands and learning to do everything for the first time -- drive, work, go to school.  Only one of my students is happily married.   Except her husband and 10 year old son are stuck in a refugee camp in Nigeria, and she's only seen her son 4 times.

We'll call her Nahla.  Nahla's from Somalia and, until my class, had never set foot in a classroom.  Although her spoken English is pretty good, she'd never learned to read -- not in English, not in Somali.  She's incredible, one of those Glinda the Good people who travel in their own pink happiness bubble.   The one thing that's holding Nahla back is being separated from her family.  She's tried and tried to get them over here, but they can never get a visa.  Even worse, because her husband's a refugee, he isn't allowed to work, and her son isn't allowed to go to school.    A few years ago there was a refugee round up and her husband and son were jailed.  She had to muster together several thousand dollars to get them released.  Her 10 year old son was JAILED in Nigeria.  The mind boggles.

But that was when the economy was good and she had a job; now she worries they'll be jailed again and she won't be able to get them out.  Which is why she's so desperate to pass the citizenship test and become an American.  That way she can bring them over.  Her son could actually go to school for the first time.  Nahla had been eligible to take the test for a few years, but had always been too frightened because the English is really hard. (Seriously: what is a non-native speaker supposed to do with the question "which of the following is not one of the constitutional requirements to be eligible to become president?"  The questions are insanely difficult, even for someone who speaks English and knows American history.  Quick: "what INS form is used to apply to become a naturalized citizen?")

Nahla recently decided that she could start to study for the test.  The test is so hard, I was doubtful she'd be able to make any headway, and for several weeks, she didn't.  But then all of a sudden something clicked and she could remember questions and memorize answers for literally the first time in her life.  She attributes it to God; she fasted all daylight hours in December in preparation for this test.

She takes the test tomorrow.  If you have spare prayers/ meditations/ positive thoughts, could send them her way?


  1. What an INCREDIBLE story. I will most certainly be sending positive thoughts her way. Thank you for sharing this with us. You should be so proud of yourself for helping others the way you's truly admirable. These women must adore you and rightly so!
    XX Kate

  2. Kate, thanks for your lovely comment and positive thoughts! These women are so wonderful to work with. Talk about inspiration.