"When one realizes one is asleep, at that moment one is already half-awake."

— P.D. Ouspensky

Who We AreWhat We DoOur VenturesWhere We WorkOur ImpactOur InsightsMore

Posts Tagged ‘English’

Teaching Basic English to Vulnerable Women

Thursday, March 24, 2011

On Fridays we explain independent clauses, but on Mondays and Thursdays we taught (until recently) an entirely different kind of English class.  We traveled to Gisozi, the site of one GG project started by Evariste in 2008.  The Community Vocational Training School teaches tailoring to vulnerable women (widows, orphans, and prostitutes), and in October we attended the graduation of this year’s class of 24 women, many of whom are using this marketable skill to leave prostitution or free themselves from dependence on an abusive husband.  At the reception, we were drinking Fanta and eating bread when some of the women asked Evariste if we could teach them English.

Rwandans celebrate most occassions (at least weddings, graduations, & birthdays in our experience) by sharing Fanta and some bread. On the left is Evariste, who founded CVTS after being trained by GG and receiving seed-funding for the project. On the right is our Country Director Marlene, and the far left is a graduate who no one realized sneaked into the picture :) 

 

A few days later, Christina and I said yes.  Although we receive at least two requests per day for English lessons (taxi drivers, shopkeepers, and teammates are all eager to keep pace after the country’s 2008 shift from French to English), we decided that this class fit with our project because it could improve the graduates’ employability.  If a tailor can speak enough English to take measurements of and negotiate with tourists and ex-pats, she or he will be quite popular.  (Everyone knows Josephine, the go-to English-speaker in our market.)  So, we agreed to a month-long class, thinking that was enough time to teach some occupational English.

Teaching women who have never been to school is not as difficult as I anticipated.  It took a long time for the one or two illiterate girls to copy from the board, letter by letter, and the general pace was pretty slow, but most of them grasped the concepts the first time around.  They are very eager learners.  They took notes on everything, and somehow, between sewing, cooking, and caring for their families, they always found time to do the homework.  No one complained about writing on their laps while perched on wooden stools and chairs that collapse without warning.  For good lighting, they dragged the one-legged blackboard out onto the front porch of the school.  We hadn’t quite figured out yet how to prop it up and on the first day of school, it may or may not have careened forward onto me mid-explanation of ‘I am’.  A blackboard falling from the sky was a first in all my school experience, but some things are apparently international: the know-it-alls sit in front, the shy ones never raise their hands, and there was a class clown, Josiane.  Looking back, I’m impressed she let that blackboard incident slide… by the end all someone has to do was accidentally say “I am a boy,” and she had the female offender collapsed in giggles.  The laughter would die down until someone piped up, “Are you a boy?” and we all deteriorated again.  Our classroom management skills may be lacking, but it’s ok—they’d mastered interrogatives!

We teach an English class twice per week to vulnerable women who learned to sew as a way to a better life. With basic English, they will (hopefully!) get more clients and have a better chance of landing a steady job with a cooperative. Our classroom was outside on the porch of the sewing school, since there is no electricity inside. The blackboard is missing a leg, chairs often collapse, and neighborhood children eavedrop outside. 

What’s an Indefinite Article, again?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Part of our project involves teaching English to the Global Grassroots staff.  Every Friday morning from 9-11:30, we convert our living room into a makeshift classroom where we explain the finer points of English to Marlene, Daphne, and Daniel.  Or try to.  I’ve been speaking this lovely language of ours for 23 years, but I have no idea why I say, “I will raft the Nile.” but not, “Last weekend I swam in the Lake Muhazi.”  I live by Lake Erie, Christina lives by the Pacific Ocean, on the planet Earth. Whyyyyy?

“Sustainability” was the first word of our fellowship proposal titles, and we’re teaching these classes to make Global Grassroots’ work sustainable.  Ideally, someday in the future, the Rwandan staff will write their own grant proposals to international foundations (or even future Rwandan foundations!).  Better yet, they will fundraise from Rwandans themselves, just like right now we fundraise from Americans.  Gretchen, the founder, talks about our ‘exit strategy’ because Rwandans should build Rwanda.  As a Rwandan friend put it, they just need help right now from America, the UK, etc. to jump-start their development.  And part of that help includes teaching English, the language of global communication, according to Rwandans.

So, we continue editing translations, clarifying the difference between effect and impact, and explaining why we use semi-colons.  They ask questions like “When do you say ‘think of’ versus ‘think about’?” and I admit I have no idea.  Christina and I have no formal ESL training and do not pretend for a second that we are qualified to teach.  It doesn’t seem to matter to our staff.  They show up every Friday and pour over exercises we’ve designed based on a few textbooks and ESL websites.  They wait patiently while Christina and I debate whether you ALWAYS need a comma before which… I feel like I should know this stuff. While they are eagerly perfecting their third language (Kinyarwanda, French & English), we’re slowing learning about our first.

Every Friday from 9-11, the GG Country Director and two interns (one was missing this week) come to our house to refine their English.


GlobalGiving vetted Organization 2016

Global Grassroots
1950 Lafayette Road, Suite 200, Box 1  |  Portsmouth, NH 03801 USA
Tel (+1) 603.643.0400  |  info@globalgrassroots.org

Contact Us    Facebook    Twitter    You Tube    Global Giving

© 2017 Global Grassroots 501(c)(3) Non-Profit