Sureer, LELL – Literacy for English Language Learners

I came to Canada 35 years ago as a refugee from Somalia. I had moved away from the fighting in my own country and I had not really been to school.

I came to Canada alone and I could not speak any English, I could not even spell out my name! I have done a lot of part time jobs, I have cleaned hospitals and I put labels on cans in a factory. At that time I couldn’t read the labels only the expiry date.

I got married here and had my children here, I have 8. I was at home after having a baby and a neighbour asked me if I would look after her daughter for $12 an hour. I said yes. I love looking after children and babies and soon my neighbours asked me to look after their children. I loved this job and did it for 7 years.

Then Habitat Housing gave me a house, but it was a long way from my neighbourhood and my friends. I had to quit my job, it was too far. People in the new area did not know me and so I had no work and no babies to look after.

I started to apply for new jobs. People would call me because I had a lot of experience, but when I got to the interview I would have to fill out a form and I couldn’t do it. They would pass me a big binder to read and I could not read it. I didn’t get a job and I began to feel depressed. I was cross with my kids, my husband and with everyone else. I felt angry that I did not know how to read or write to get a job that I really loved, or any job at all.
I didn’t know what to do. Then a friend told me to go to Catholic Social Services, so I did. They gave me a list of places where I could go to get a tutor. I took it home and my daughter helped me to read it.

When I called P.A.L.S. I was nearly crying, this was 2 years ago. I came to P.A.L.S. and two weeks later I had a tutor Chelsea. I loved working with Chelsea, and she helped me a lot.
I started to learn to read and write. Chelsea was fun and full of life and I enjoyed coming to learn. When Chelsea left, I was quickly matched with another tutor, Janet.

Janet really helped me with my speaking, we tease each other and she corrects me when I pronounce things badly. While I was working with Chelsea and Janet I became more confident and I decided to get my Child Care Level 1. I worked hard and I passed the exam, with the help of my kids and my tutors.

Last summer I got a job working with kids, which is what I love. I asked Janet if she would help me to improve my writing, as I now needed to write reports for work. Janet said she would.

If I had not come to P.A.L.S. I would still be unhappy, I would not have a job.

I have told lots of girls to come to P.A.L.S. and given them the address and number. I hope they come.
Before P.A.L.S. my eyes were closed. Now they are open. I am more happy, confident and not stressed. Coming to P.A.L.S. has really made a big impact on how I see myself and my life.
I know I can learn and that is what I plan to do – keep learning.

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