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Emmaus Church reaches around the world from right here

December 3, 2010

Volunteer Leah Chamberlin practices flash cards with local immigrants at the Emmaus Church (Kayla Germain)

By Lauren Beale, Marissa Crary and Kayla Germain

Emmaus United Methodist Church, which extends services to local immigrant and refugee families, will mark its multicultural flair Saturday when it celebrates Christmas Around the World.

“Everybody is welcome,” said Noel John, the lay leader at Emmaus and a native of Pakistan.  The service is part of a World Cafe series hosted by the church to showcase the talents and traditions of the many cultures that make up the congregation. Saturday’s event at 715 Morris St. runs from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Emmaus is a an energy-filled environment with programs reaching throughout the region.

During the December and January school break, the Emmaus adult English as a Second Language program and children’s programs will each continue to offer services to individuals from Burma, Haiti, Rwanda, Pakistan, Congo, Iraq, India, and China.

The ESOL after school program, as well as adult tutoring sessions, have been created to support families in their transition to the United States.

“They’ve come to America not by choice but by necessity. You can just imagine how difficult it is to have your life

Nafea Buttrus, who suffered injury in Iraq and moved to the U.S in June (Kayla Germain)

uprooted- to lose your home, culture, job and ability to converse freely in the community,” said Wendy Cotter, an English integration teacher.

Classes for adults are offered in the morning, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and in the evening, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The executive director of ESOL services, Rifat Nazir, is originally from Pakistan and was a high school principal there for 11 years. She understands the importance of what the classes offer, “They need this program desperately because when they get here language is the biggest barrier for them. Many of them improved their English skills and were able to get jobs.”

Children in the ESOL after school program come from local schools including Pine Hills Elementary, Hackett Middle School, Giffen Elementary, School 19, Myers Middle School, Delaware Community School, and ASH Elementary. Students are in grades kindergarten through ninth grade and are adjusting to school in a new country. “Projects are geared toward what the kids are learning in school and their homework,” said Elizabeth Stampfel, a student volunteer.

Child education services are offered five days a week, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and are extended during school breaks. Children are provided transportation, healthy snacks, and dinner. “It’s hard to be in a totally different educational system,” said Nazir.

Student Aung Na OO from Burma builds a personal notebook (Dave Jones)

Volunteers make up a majority of the ESOL staff. “Prior to their help, I was trying to teach all of the different levels at the same time,” said Cotter, “Needless to say, there wasn’t much opportunity for students to speak English. The volunteers have changed this.”

Leah Chamberlin, an adult ESOL volunteer, said, “Some

Seven-year-old May Nau Aung from Burma creates arts and crafts (Dave Jones)

of the techniques we use to teach the students are games and reading packets that spark English conversation. This gives them the opportunity to communicate in English and helps their pronunciation.”

Learning English helps these refugees make their lives in the U.S., so when they make language connections it is meaningful. A moment that stands out to Chamberlin is, “seeing the looks on the faces of the women from Iraq when they have understood something…definitely makes them happy.”

Volunteer working with after school participant (Dave Jones)

The language barrier is difficult, but not insurpassable. “These students have different needs that need to be incorporated into teaching,” said Michelle Mainella, an after school program volunteer.

Families are supported not only through language services, “We support families in all aspects,” said Nazir. “Every day is challenging, but very productive.”


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