Haleema hadn’t learned to read and write in her own language
I met Haleema exactly a year ago through Arrive Ministries. After our first meeting her husband told me that in Afghanistan she only went to school for 4 years and that she never had the opportunity to learn how to read and write in her own language. That day I decided that I would find the time to help Haleema with her English.
That day I decided that I would find the time to help Haleema with her English.
Daily Study Sessions
Almost every day we met to review the material she received from other volunteers. Her handwriting and speaking skills improved a lot. She was very serious about her studying. As the months went by we enjoyed sharing more and more about our daily lives.
Fears of the Naturalization Interview
At the beginning of January I asked her if she had a special wish for 2020. She told me about her fear of the naturalization interview scheduled for April. I took this test 10 years ago, so I knew it would be extremely challenging for her. She needed to not only be able to explain her personal information from her application Form N-400, but also to show knowledge and understanding of the U.S. history, government, and the legal system and finally read and write specific civic vocabulary in order to pass the test. Since she was very motivated, we started this journey.
Making practice fun
From that day everything was focused on the test but in a fun way (using library books for kids, a globe, flashcards, and a world atlas). For 2-1/2 months we met 5 days a week, usually with 1-2 friends/neighbors, so Haleema could share with them and also be challenged by them.
Time was ticking. I was thinking, “We will never be ready for the date”
We started with the 100 questions because this part of the test requires a lot of memorization. Time was ticking. I was thinking, “We will never be ready for the date”. So I asked her to keep practicing the questions online on her own and we started to work on the speaking part; that’s the first part of the interview when the USCIS officer reviews the application. I thought Haleema would be ready to take the civics test but she would need to go back for the reading and writing parts, which are the final parts of the interview.
Perseverance in spite of a cancelled citizenship interview
And then the pandemic happened and the interview was canceled. For two months every day we met through FaceTime without knowing when the test would be. For Haleema it was challenging to find the right time and also difficult to stay focused because her children were home. However, together we persevered.
What an accomplishment for someone who less than a year ago could hardly say a few words in English
Finally summer came and we could meet outside at the park. It was so much better than practicing with FaceTime. During all this time Haleema was extremely conscientious, doing all her homework and sometimes more. Finally in July we received an interview date!
A Huge Accomplishment!
After 2 mock interviews I knew she was ready. Haleema easily passed the naturalization interview and the test on July 21st. What an accomplishment for someone who less than a year ago could hardly say a few words in English and was only able to write the alphabet!
Floriane Broccard is an Arrive Ministries volunteer who teaches English with our AWELL program.