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Student Hasan, left, speaks during a class exercise while her tutor Ann looks on


Hanan is no stranger to difficulty – or to resilience.

Forced to leave her homeland of Iraq because of, as she calmly explains, “the war and bombs”, she’s learned to be strong through two moves, the first to Turkey, and most recently to Houston. She’s now settled here with her husband of 20 years and her three children, and she says she loves her new city.

But the need for resilience has continued here too. Hanan’s youngest son is sick with a chronic kidney condition and is regularly hospitalized. Hanan’s first language is Arabic, and when she moved to Turkey she taught herself Turkish by talking with a friend on the phone – but now her need for English is urgent.

She needs to talk to her son’s doctors and caregivers, help him navigate school when he’s frequently absent, and she wants to join her husband in the U.S. workforce so that she can help support her family, both here in Texas and those she left behind in Iraq.

And her English, when she first arrived, was extremely basic.

“Before, just hello, good morning, how are you, was no good.”

When she first came to the United States, Hanan’s language skills were rudimentary, to say the least. She needed a friend with her at all times to translate and was constantly anxious, not knowing how to help her son get the care he needed or understand the details about how to care for him at home. So she joined a Literacy Advance English class.

At first, Hanan didn’t make a lot of progress in class. She was too distracted and too stressed; her son was sick, she was learning to navigate a new and foreign place, and couldn’t concentrate well. But she stuck with it – and found her progress getting faster. She is grateful to her tutor, Ann, for her patience and care, and speaks animatedly of others noticing her improved conversation skills.

“Doctor say, ‘Hanan, good English’. And [my son’s] teacher say, ‘Hanan, English better’.”

Now, Hanan can talk with her son’s medical carers on the phone, including while he’s in the hospital, as he needs to be for 5 days out of every month. She can text in English, and talk to her son’s teacher and help him stay up to date with his education.

The doctors have noticed her improved English and with it has come increased confidence – the circle of learning in action!

For the future – Hanan isn’t sure. She very much wants to work, but not while her son is so sick. So she’s sticking with English class for now, so that she’ll be ready for a job when the time is right. When asked what job she wants, Hanan says:

“Anything. Any job. I just want make money for my family. I will do anything.”

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