Give our families the gift of literacy

Dear friends,

As you know, the Hyde Park Refugee Project recently welcomed two Syrian refugee families to our community. Before their arrival, the families endured unimaginable hardships. Having survived the bombing of Aleppo, the families left their homes and belongings and fled to Turkey where they lived for several years in temporary accommodations while awaiting resettlement. Separated from their extended family and uncertain of their futures, the families were profoundly grateful when they finally arrived in Chicago.

But this new chapter of their lives brings its own daunting challenges. When they arrived, the families spoke no English and the older children had been out of school for several years. A few short months from now, the financial aid they’ve been receiving to support their resettlement will expire and the families will be expected to fully support themselves.

The single most important determinant of the families’ long-term success is the English language proficiency they achieve over the next few months.  Our families would benefit enormously from additional tutoring – and to enable this additional language support, we write today to ask for your financial support.

Currently, the fathers of each family receive eight hours of language training from RefugeeOne each week. The mothers and children receive three hours of weekly language training from Sirat Chicago. And all of the family members receive one-on-one instruction from our team of volunteer language tutors.

But we can do so much more. We know the Hyde Park community understands the value of education and the transformative power of literacy. By investing in intensive language training now, our community can have a profound impact on the long-term outcomes for these two remarkable families. With that goal in mind, the Hyde Park Refugee Project is launching a fundraising campaign to support three new literacy initiatives.

Adult Literacy: Our employment team has compiled a number of excellent leads on jobs within each father’s vocational area, but all of the employers require English language proficiency. Without strong communication skills, our families run the risk of getting stuck in jobs offering low wages, poor job security, few opportunities for advancement, and no medical benefits for themselves or their children.

With $5,000, we can support individualized language instruction for the adult members of both families. By tailoring the instruction to each adult, we can ensure that they acquire the specialized vocabulary of their vocations, dramatically improving their career prospects.

High School Preparation: The two oldest children are 15 and 17.  These children’s futures hinge on their ability to complete their educations, but without intensive English language instruction now it will be virtually impossible for them to make up for lost time and earn even a high school diploma.

With $5,000, we can provide intensive language instruction this spring and summer. With funds from two generous donors, we recently hired, on a short-term basis, an outstanding certified teacher who is Arabic-speaking and has ESL experience. With these additional funds, we will be able to continue this important work throughout the remainder of the academic year and over the summer.

Tutor Training: The Hyde Park Refugee Project has a dedicated team of volunteer tutors who supplement the family members’ language instruction with one-on-one tutoring, but few of the tutors have received formal ESL training.

With $1,500, we can enlist expert ESL instructors from Literacy Works to deliver a customized 2-day training program for our tutors, dramatically improving the quality of language support they can provide our families.

Many of you have been with us from the start. Whenever we’ve asked for help, you’ve come through. But of all the ways we can help our families, this may be the most fundamental. Language proficiency is the key that unlocks a future of stability, peace, and prosperity. If we all give a little (and those who are able, give a little more) we can set these families on the path toward sustainable new lives here in Chicago.

To donate, click here.

Or send a check payable to the Hyde Park and Kenwood Interfaith Council to the address below (with Refugee Project on the memo line). All donations to the Hyde Park Refugee Project are fully tax deductible.

Thank you in advance for your generous support!

Dorothy Pytel and Penny Visser
Volunteer Coordinators, Hyde Park Refugee Project
c/o Hyde Park and Kenwood Interfaith Council
1448 E 52nd Street, #117
Chicago, IL 60615

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