It is that time again when I like to put my weight behind something or someone I believe is worthy of putting my weight behind!
From the early days of arriving in London, UK, I have been involved with an amazing organization. Pearl Education Foundation is an organization that provides FREE English, and IT classes to men and women of all backgrounds. Their motto is “From the margins to the mainstream”. What does being from the margins mean?
There are many things I can be, but a major aspect of my life is that I am defined as an immigrant. No matter how much I try to escape that word, I am forever etched as an Immigrant-albeit a Modern Day immigrant. The modern immigrant doesn’t necessarily look like the earlier generation of immigrants. I speak English, I am fluent in modern-day slang, well-aware of popular culture, I dress “Western” with slight ethnic adjustments, and have only a slight accent to clue anyone into my ethnic background. I have spent more years of my life in Vancouver, Canada, than I have in my birth country. I went through the earlier stages of settling into my new life about 16/17 years ago when I first moved to Vancouver. At that time, unlike many others, I was very lucky to already be fluent in English, and did not have any need for ESL or TESOL classes. Of course the transition was not easy, but it wasn’t impossible.
Since then, I have lived in New York City, and adjusted to the fast-paced life there. Recently, I moved to London, UK. At times I felt alien, often lost in translation-because believe it or not British Slang is a lot different than American or Canadian slang. I like to think I have adjusted well. I have often thought what if I was a woman in a foreign land, unable to speak English and had no family or social ties to my new land? It is a scary thought. Starting my life anew in New York City, despite the many advantages of an education, fluency in the language, complete capability of using the computer/internet and the courage and freedom to move around and find my own way through New York, I remember being scared. I depended on my husband to help me plan out my routes. I would wait for him to approve of the destination as being “safe” in order for me to go and wander on my own. For an independent girl, this was a huge blow!
When I moved to London and started volunteering with Pearl Education Foundation, I met many women who came and attended our English classes. I saw how some of them had zero ability to speak English. Some of them had lived here for over 40 years and only now after their kids had grown up had the courage to learn English for themselves. I met women who were victims of domestic abuse, and Pearl Education Foundation was their first step to independence. I met older women who came to learn English after having put up a fight to attend the classes-just so they could connect with their grandchildren. I met men from countries like Afghanistan, who sat in the same room with women and came to learn the language. I saw young mothers with their new born children soaking up knowledge like a sponge. In one of the centers, I saw young students from European countries, with dreams of making it big in London, attending their English classes. What lures all these people to these classes is that they are ABSOLUTELY FREE! They are for anyone and EVERYONE to join. There are no tests, no limitations on who can join. People can bring their children. All they have in common is a desire to learn and become a part of the greater British community. They all want to be productive parts of a productive society.
More dedicated than the people who attend the classes, are the volunteers. All of them committed to teaching their students. There is no monetary benefit to them from teaching these classes, They prepare and plan despite limited resources and teach their students. They are like a Fountain of water, pouring all their knowledge into the thirsty vessels -their students. Words are not enough to describe the emotions, and/or the power of seeing this organization in motion. Every time, I have attended a class, I have become teary-eyed. Every student is inspirational. Every time, I feel gratitude for not being lost in translation, for being able to get on the tube read the signs, ask the questions and get to my destination. I couldn’t imagine a life of being alone in a foreign land, unable to speak, share, or ask for directions or even go to buy milk at the grocers. I would be utterly depressed.
Pearl Education Foundation has given hope to so many lives. It has brought the gift of language to these otherwise invisible people and made them visible! That is what it means to be From the margins to the mainstream. You don’t have to take my word for it. Her Majesty the Queen recognized the work Pearl and her CEO has been involved in and the difference it has made to hundreds of lives. In 2012, Durdana Ansari, the CEO for Pearl Education Foundation was awarded the Order of the British Empire for her hard-work. Pearl needs Your support to continue its work and to keep its doors open to everyone. I urge you all to take the time to check this organization out at http://www.pearleducationfoundation.com or on twitter @pearleducation or on facebook and get to know the volunteers, the CEO, and the organization. Please look deep into your hearts and donate generously to this wonderful organization.