Afghan Women’s English Language Learner (AWELL)
Nadir and Maryam (not their real names) are one among a dozen families from Afghanistan living in Richfield. Nadir came to the U.S. on a Special Immigration Visa (SIV) that he earned after assisting the U.S. Military in Afghanistan. Nadir and Maryam came to the Arrive Ministries offices for a meeting with our Immigration Legal Services team. He expressed a desire for his wife to learn English, and thus was born our new Afghan Women’s English Language Learner (AWELL) initiative.
(Nadir) and his wife are thankful to be here and look forward to their children thriving in their new culture.
Sipping tea while sitting on the carpet, a few of us from Arrive Ministries heard Nadir share his family’s story. During the Russian occupation they were forced to live in a Pakistan refugee camp.
Once that conflict ended, they moved back to Afghanistan, only to see another war start after 9/11. Nadir decided to get a job with the U.S. military and eventually learned enough English to be a translator. After weathering numerous threats from the Taliban against himself and his family, Nadir and Maryam applied for a Special Immigration Visa (SIV) and were accepted. They moved to the United States, initially to Texas. Nadir heard from some friends that Minnesota was even better, so they moved here about a year ago.
Nadir is obviously very proud of his children, including his 9th grade daughter who has received a number of academic awards at school and has even started writing a book about her experiences. He and his wife are thankful to be here and look forward to their children thriving in their new culture. But, they are also anxious for Maryam to learn English.
Amazingly, we never had time to put out an appeal for volunteers! Instead, word spread, and soon over a dozen women expressed a desire to participate in our burgeoning program!
The AWELL program name draws on women meeting at the well in Biblical times.
Maryam has been at home with their 6 children (including a newborn), so she has been unable to attend English classes. This is a common situation for her female friends in their Richfield apartment complex. Recognizing this need and wanting to be good neighbors, Arrive Ministries decided to create a program to connect female Arrive Ministries volunteers with these Afghan women to teach conversational English. Amazingly, we never had time to put out an appeal for volunteers! Instead, word spread, and soon over a dozen women expressed a desire to participate in our burgeoning program!
Thus was born the Afghan Women’s English Language Learning (AWELL) program whose name draws on women meeting at the well in Biblical times.
They meet three days per week for about 90 minutes each time, with roughly 4 students and 4 volunteer teachers. In line with Arrive Ministries’ mission, our desire is to build friendships that bring transformation to all involved. Classes are now in the second month, and include reading children’s books, playing “spot the difference” games, and working on vocabulary related to citizenship and driving rules. One of our volunteers even had some henna applied after class by a student.
One of our volunteers told me how privileged she feels to be God’s hands and feet in loving these new neighbors. “God commands that His people help widows, orphans and aliens. I get to follow the Lord by doing that! The smiles and appreciation make me happy. The happiness of others transfers to my own heart.”
God commands that His people help widows, orphans and aliens. I get to follow the Lord by doing that! The smiles and appreciation make me happy. The happiness of others transfers to my own heart
She also feels challenged by the importance the Afghan ladies place on relationship and community and how different that is from our more individualistic society. “The Afghan women live interdependently with their families and friends, and that is a great example to us!”
Another AWELL tutor told me that the Afghan women wanted to give our volunteers a henna tattoo. “In our training,” she told me, “we learned to value these dear ladies as people who are able to give and receive love. The henna was a great example of the love they have for us and the unique gifts God has given them… The Lord has just blessed me richly through this experience.”
God seems to be blessing AWELL thus far, and we are anxious to see it grow with more students and volunteers in the weeks to come.
Mike Bergman is the Deputy Director at Arrive Ministries.