Helping Refugees in the QCA - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Helping Refugees in the QCA


They were pulled out of war torn countries - not ready to make a trip to America.

But hundreds of refugees are now making new homes in the Quad Cities.

Most of them not knowing anything about the English culture or the language. 

Now -local group are coming together to make the transition possible for these displaced people. 

Black Hawk Community College started a program four years ago to teach refugees English.

The opportunity to learn to read and write English a dream come true for many.

Especially when some weren't even sure they would make it out of their own country alive.

"In my country, where I was born, there is a lot of trouble," says Vicky Bernadette, a refugee of the Congo in Africa.

"There is people fighting and killing each other for no reason. That's why we left. We needed peace."

Vicky landing in the Quad Cities - knowing nothing about the new world around her.

But she knew she had to try and make the most of her new life.

"It's important for me to know how to write because when you live in this country and you go and see you doctor, they give a paper to fill out. You're going to have to write and without reading, you can't do nothing!"

So Vicky comes to the Church Of Peace basement in Rock Island every day - learning to read and write.

But who teaches them?

Lisa Viaene started to do just that three year ago.

Thanks to  federal grant - she is able to teach adults to do simple things like write their own name - to bigger skills that are needed for every day life.

"On a daily basis I hear, Hey Lisa, I don't know what to do," says Viaene. "Or they will bring in a phone bill or they go to the doctor and they don't know what to do at their appointments."

But trying to teach people from 5 different countries speaking at least 8 different languages can be a challenge.

"The challenges we see on a daily basis are trying to understand what they are trying to ask," Viaene explains. "And rarely do we get translators."

Recently Lisa started to notice some of her students just weren't learning as well as others.

"In the last few years, we have noticed they (the refugees) are trying to acquire more English skills. But we just don't know if they are hearing like they should to get the articulation of the words."

So Viaene asked students from the Augustana College speech department to come in and give hearing tests to the refugee students.

Some of them getting their hearing tested for the first time in their lives.

"It's very important that the students have good hearing so they can interact with others," says Dr. Ann Pereau of Augustana. "It's important so they can work on their English and language acquisition. You have to have goo auditory input to have language acquisition."

And they results from the testing - were surprising.

"It seems like we are getting maybe a third or so that truly pass the testing," Dr. Pereau explains.

But in the end - no matter how the students learn, or what language they speak, many students are here for the same reason.

"I want to take the citizenship test because I want to be an American." says Vicky Bernadette. "And to do that, I need to learn to write and read."

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