This week when we arrived at our family’s home, we immediately sat down to begin homework. As I settled in to begin a book report with the eleven-year-old grand daughter, I realized that although our family has fairly good English skills, they still have so much to learn. I reminisced about the book reports that I wrote in grade school and how I, an English speaker since birth, struggled to summarize books like The Babysitters’ Club and The Boxcar Children. As I recollected my trials with my own book reports, I realized that helping this young girl who has only been submerged in a predominantly English-speaking world for six months would be extremely difficult. As we sat and worked on the report for two hours, I became more and more amazed at this young girl’s attention span. I am sure she was sick of working on the report, but she stuck to it. After Rob and I finished helping the girls with their homework, we were fed delicious noodles and chai tea. When we finished our food, the girls surprised us by pulling out a photo album of friends and family from Nepal. Each week I spend with my family, I realize more and more the strength of will and character of these astounding people.
My partner and I were really excited to work with our Burmese family this week. The previous week we went over some basic English words, and I couldn’t wait to see what they remembered.
We brought a coloring book and crayons for the little boy. We also grabbed a few more picture books to review the English, and some string to make bracelets as a way to break up our visit. I was excited to spend time with them, and was much less nervous than the previous visit.
When my partner and I knocked on their door, there was no answer. We tried again and still nothing. Eventually we left, thoroughly disappointed. Maybe our family did not understand that we would be back every week at the same time, or maybe an emergency came up. I was sad that they weren’t home because I was very excited to see them, but we can try again this week.
This week Vikash and I were determined to help our family find resources that will help them learn English. We took “Karan” to the library. We went to the one that was the closes to them so his family can walk there. We made him a library card and found out that once you make a card you have access to the museums in Chicago for free with a pass. So they get one pass per museum and can let in up to four family members free. This could be a future field trip for them and I would be excited to take the little ones somewhere. As we were checking into the library, “Karan” seemed a little overwhelmed. It was the first time he had seen a computer . We found some great picture books that translated Hindi to English. So this should be very beneficial. Also we checked out a simple children’s book so they can practice reading English and also read to the children. I am so excited to visit them again and see if these resources helped them out. Also they are having a hard time adjusting to the weather. Hopefully we can get them jackets soon. I have really reached out to my family and friends to donate any items they have.
Erin and I went out to grab a bite to eat before visiting our family as usual on Thursday and I mentioned to her how I wasn’t nervous this week because last week went so well. Then jokingly I stated that it would just be ironic if this week ended up being a disappointment just because I anticipated it to be good. Well I should have knocked on wood because when we arrived at their apartment no one was home and after waiting for a bit we had no choice but to head back to Loyola disappointed.
It was very unfortunate especially since the next available time we could visit was on the following Thursday and we have no way of knowing if they will be there again. We thought they understood when our visit was and we hope this was probably just a fluke. Otherwise we will probably have to contact the ECAC to contact them and find a better time for us to meet up. I hope the family is well, it seems silly to worry but it is hard when there is very few ways for us to contact and communicate with our family.
On the bright side, if all goes as planned next week, Erin and I got a coloring book for the two young boys in our family and we also plan to teach them how to make thread bracelets in between our English lesson just for fun.
I only got to visit with our family once this week, instead of twice, because I went home to Minnesota for the weekend. However, our Wednesday visit was very fun, as always. I was proud of the family’s twelve-year-old boy, who seems to be comprehending his homework better every week, though it is still very difficult. The most exciting thing about our visit Wednesday was seeing the mother of the family return home from her ELL class. Not only is it exciting to see her get out of the house a little bit, but she is also so excited about her English learning. She read to us from her workbook and was delighted at any encouragement we gave her. I was impressed with how much she already knew- I think if she had the chance to integrate more into an English speaking environment she would learn very quickly. Hopefully she will continue to have conversations with Renee and I when we are helping her kids out with their homework- I’m not sure she necessarily wants our help directly with her ELL, but it would be awesome to get some more relaxed conversation time.
I’m still worried about this family’s financial situation. They have previously mentioned plans to possibly move to Iowa, as I’ve heard several refugee families in Rogers Park are doing. The thought of losing touch with this family after getting to know them even just a little bit is depressing- but I know work is nearly impossible to find in Chicago. I wonder if the situation is any better in Iowa?