Yohannes, LELL – Literacy for English Language Learners

My name is Yohannes, and I am from Eritrea. I am very pleased to share my story and my learning journey at P.A.L.S. with you this evening. I was introduced to P.A.L.S. in 2012 by my first cousins who tutor at P.A.L.S.

In Eritrea I was an assistant nurse and an orthopaedic technician in Uganda. However, to practice any profession in Canada, I need to improve my English and go back to school to upgrade my qualifications to Canadian standards.

I feel very fortunate to be sponsored by my uncle because in Eritrea there was little hope for a bright future. Living in Eritrea was difficult and stressful. My uncle and aunt have been living in Canada with their children for many years.
They agreed to sponsor me in 2006 and I arrived in Canada in 2012. I was very lucky in my journey to Canada. The borders surrounding Eritrea are unsafe because there is a constant threat of being kidnapped by neighbouring Bedouin tribes for human trafficking and illegal organ theft. Many people are taken prisoner and harvested for their organs. Some even perish at the hands of Bedouin smugglers.

When I first came to P.A.L.S. I was very apprehensive and shy. I did not know what to expect and I had little knowledge of other cultures. In the Conversation Circle I attend with John, students are encouraged to improve their listening, reading, writing and speaking skills by making presentations in class to peers on topics that will expand our knowledge and perspective. These public speaking exercises help me to organize my thoughts and produce work that will enable me to pass the entrance exams for the educational institutions of my choice, and to train for an occupation, or even to get a better job. We learn not only formal writing, such as covering letters for job applications, and letters of complaint, but also build awareness of current issues and practice community involvement.

As an example, to practice my English writing, John suggested that we students each draft a letter to the Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, giving suggestions on how Government of Canada could intervene to help put an end to Human Trafficking in East Africa. This type of exercise is very typical in our advanced writing exercises in our Conversation Circle.

Another important part of our learning at P.A.L.S. is learning to live in the Canadian community.

Becoming comfortable about our community means learning about the Canadian government at three levels, and participating in elections and attending community events. This is a sign of growing in our knowledge about Canada, it helps us feel more comfortable in Canadian society. It is also a learning for us to contribute towards making our society compassionate and responsive to Human Rights issues that we faced in our home countries. I think my letter was pretty good and I now know how to write a letter about anything that I am passionate about.

Being a student at P.A.L.S. helped me to make friends with students from other countries and learn about their cultures. I have learned that many of them have the same struggles as I do. I am now more confident and less shy. I am able to explore more career options, and even help others to find information and explore career choices. I have now decided that I want to study to be an orthopaedic technician, a program which is only offered in Ontario and British Columbia.

I have learned a lot at P.A.L.S. and have explored various career options with my tutor, John, and the Program Coordinator. I am upgrading towards admission to a program of my choice. Thank you P.A.L.S. for providing support for language and community integration.

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