Monday, December 14, 2009

Next training date

The first new-tutor training session
of 2010 will be
Saturday, February 20.

Potential in-home tutors who wish to volunteer should visit our Website, and print out an application. The application serves as your registration for the training.

Please note that the application is not an electronic form! Do not try to fill it out electronically. Do not send it via email.

New for 2010: We need to have 10 volunteers in attendance for a training session. If fewer than 10 people confirm their attendance, the session will be postponed. Our training activities and group dynamics just don't work when there are only a few people in attendance.

If you have questions about the program, please visit our Website, send an email to, or call 720-423-4843.

My movie is missing!

At the fall inservice, someone borrowed one of my
copies of Rain in a Dry Land.

I don't remember who has it.

I really need it back ASAP.

If you have it, please return it.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

A job posting

Catholic Charities is hiring an English as a Second Language teacher for adults during the evening hours. This position is thirteen hours a week in Southwest Denver. The curriculum is based on life skills acquisition using the Step Forward curriculum.

The ideal candidate will have a fun, welcoming and creative classroom atmosphere with experience teaching lower and advanced level students. Must have a High School Diploma/GED and six months to one year related experience. Submit resume and cover letter to:

4045 Pecos St. Denver, CO 80211

Or Email:

Monday, November 30, 2009

In the news lately

Denver's refugee community continues to be in the news lately. In addition to the article in the previous post (scroll down), Here are some other stories you may have missed.

From the Denver Post, columnist Tina Griego wrote about Deg Adhikari, one of many Bhutanese refugees trying to make a new life in Denver. Click here to read the column. A couple of columns later, she wrote a followup piece with more information about refugee resettlement in Denver.
Colorado Public Radio,NPR, and NBC Nightly News all covered the death of Haiffaa Ali, an Iraqi refugee attending Emily Griffith Opportunity School. Haiffaa's story really clarified the issue of why being safely resettled is not the same thing as finding a home.

Click here to watch the NBC story (about two minutes).
Click here for the Colorado Public Radio story (about five minutes).
Click here for NPR's "All things Considered" version of the CPR story (about three or four minutes).

Do you know a journalist? Share the refugee story. Share the story of your experience in this program. The more we keep these stories in the news, the more we can raise awareness about an often-overlooked subject that could use a lot more exposure.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

From Telling the Human Story

Earlier this month, I was looking for a video on the UNHCR Website, when a picture on the home page caught my eye. The story I saw was about Hodan, someone who is currently going through the resettlement process--and someone I know personally. Her story is compelling and heart-breaking, yet ultimately one of hope and a better future. The story follows in its entirety. --SM

Young Somali refugee born in exile looks forward to
resettlement after a hard life

Hodan gets ready to board a bus that will take her to Addis Ababa from Kebribeyah Refugee Camp.

KEBRIBEYAH REFUGEE CAMP, Ethiopia, October 1 (UNHCR) – Hodan Mawlid has spent almost all of her life in a baking, dusty refugee camp in Ethiopia, yet the 18-year-old remains remarkably optimistic despite suffering the loss of her parents at an early age and the hardship that followed.

"I have led a very painful life," she told a UNHCR visitor here recently. "But I always find solace in my belief that the best way to prevail over the cruelties and ills of the past is to forget them altogether and start all over again."

Now, things are changing for Hodan: last month she flew to the United States after being accepted for resettlement and her positive attitude should help her face the challenges that will arise in an alien land and culture. "Just how smooth the new beginning is depends so much on the individual and the situation," said UNHCR Senior Resettlement Officer Larry Yungk. "I think there tend to be opportunities out there, but there is no guarantee of success," he adds.

Hodan was among a group of 23 vulnerable Somali refugees, including her uncle and his family, who were accepted by the US under a UNHCR-organized resettlement programme and flown to Denver, Colorado. They cannot return home because they originate from volatile southern or central areas of Somalia, where people continue to flee their homes to escape conflict.

I've known suffering all my life. Compared to what I've endured, language and cultural barriers will be nothing to worry about. -– Somali refugee Hodan Mawlid
Before leaving Addis Ababa, she said she knew there were tough times ahead, especially to begin with as she struggles to learn English. But she's had a lifetime of preparation. "I've known suffering all my life. Compared to what I've endured, language and cultural barriers will be nothing to worry about."

Hodan was born and brought up in eastern Ethiopia's Kebribeyah Refugee Camp after her parents crossed from neighbouring Somalia in 1991, fleeing the chaos that followed the collapse of the Siad Barre regime. They were among more than 600,000 people who fled to Ethiopia and found safety in eight refugee camps.

"When I grew old enough to enquire about my parents, I learnt from my uncle, who took care of me while in the camp, that my mother had died as a refugee when I was four years old and that my father returned to Somalia some months later," she recalled.

The news was a devastating blow, especially as Hodan had no siblings who could comfort her. Her uncle and aunt and their children became her surrogate parents and siblings, but she had to drop out of school after Grade Four to supplement the family's monthly food ration by working as a housemaid in a nearby town.

Meanwhile, relative stability in Somaliland and northern Somalia's Puntland led to the repatriation of well over half-a-million Somali refugees from Ethiopia between 1997 and 2005. But Hodan's kin were from southern Somalia where continuing insecurity has prevented their return. Resettlement became an option.

The Somalis still living in camps in eastern Ethiopia, including Hodan and her relatives, were caught in a protracted refugee situation with no end in sight. As part of the efforts to resolve the problem, the US government agreed in 2007 to accept thousands of these Somalis for resettlement. To date, UNHCR has referred the names of some 5,600 for possible resettlement.

"While UNHCR's primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees, our ultimate goal is to help find durable solutions that will allow them to rebuild their lives in dignity and peace," explained Moses Okello, UNHCR's representative in Ethiopia.

The Somali community in the United States is closely-knit, UNHCR's Yungk noted, adding that this could help the young Hodan settle in well. Her biggest hurdle could be education.

"Unfortunately, if one is over 18 and arrives in the US, one is generally not eligible to finish public schooling," Yungk said, while adding that refugees like Hodan were usually steered towards General Equivalency Degree programmes, English-language courses and vocational training.

Hodan welcomed the opportunity for a new life with plenty of opportunity. There is no looking back for her. "I do not think I have any incentive to go to Somalia any time in the future," she concluded.

© UNHCR/K.G.Egziabher
By Kisut Gebre Egziabher in Kebribeyah Refugee Camp, Ethiopia

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Taking my own advice

Photo © UNESCO/Nicolas Axelrod

Back in August, I started teaching a new class--a new level, to be specific. It has been a few years since I last taught the just-slightly-higher than level zero/level one, and for the first month back, it left me exhausted as each class session wrapped up.

There has been a lot to remember: Speak slower, repeat often, write larger, use less paper, interact more, be physical, and never, ever ask, "Do you understand?" At the end of each day, I thought, "Slower. Lower. Simpler. Tomorrow."

My students fall into two categories: Those who have had little or no formal education in their first language, and those who understand the skills required to learn but just don't speak English yet. (If the word I most want my students to know is "Try," then my word of encouragement is "Yet.")

For those who have been in school, activities we consider familiar tasks are often daunting and frustrating for those who have little formal education. Here are some things I've had to remember:

  • Copying from the board and transferring that information to paper is very difficult. Start by coping single words that are on the paper. Put the lines underneath the word to be copied so the student can line up the letters (stacking). Later, have the student copy the letters or words to the right (linear, not stacked).
  • Never assume my students are going to remember the material we covered days ago. There's a solution to this...stay tuned.
  • Your student's job is to try. Your job is to facilitate learning. It is not your student's job to please you. Your student's inability to learn something new is just a reminder that you need to try another way.
  • Remember--the more senses you involve in an activity, the more parts of the brain are engaged in the learning process. More brain = better chance of success and retention.
Last week, my class was studying how to read and write an American address. We had already covered all of the components, but the class was not together when it came to actually writing address information in order and in the correct format.

Suddenly, it was like a little me popped up in a thought balloon over my shoulder saying, "Manipulatives are less abstract than writing." Aha!

I quickly printed out some address information (size 16 type/Comic Sans font) and cut apart the address into a separate pieces. I put the pieces in front of each student who needed support. I asked the student to only identify the following:
  • Where is the street?
  • Where is the building number?
  • Where is the apartment number?
  • Where is the city?
  • Where is the state?
  • Where is the ZIP code?
And then I asked, Where is the building number? I pushed the student's finger to place the piece of paper. What's next? Is this the apartment number or the ZIP code? Once the address was in order, I mixed up the pieces and asked the student to do it again and again, but each time with less help from me. When the task was learned, the student copied the address onto paper. And then we started again with a new address.

Sometimes, low-tech is astoundingly effective.

Don't forget to spiral. Language and literacy are not learned in a straight line (learn item. Continue. Learn item. Continue...) or on a continuum. This is a spiral, so you introduce, add, revisit, introduce, add, revisit, incorporate, add, etc. If you have ever made bread, think about how, when you get to the kneading stage, you continue to incorporate more flour via the kneading surface. The dough can't absorb all the flour it requires right away, so you build on what's already there.

At any level of teaching--and learning--there is a certain amount of trial and error. The same thing doesn't work the same way for different students or even the same way for the same student every time.

Go forth and, well, hang in there. This is a two-way learning process.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

A ten-day Hindu festival season

In the United States, the big national holidays last a single day or a weekend, at most. In the life of a practicing Hindu, however, celebrations may last a week or more.

This weekend marks the overlap of
three Hindu festivals and observances related to Mother Goddess. If your student is from Bhutan (ethnic Nepalese), her family is spending this weekend immersed in Hindu practice involving prayer, rituals, dance and food as part of “Dusshera” and “Vijayadashami,” or in Nepali, विजया दशमी

For more information on these Hindu holidays and their significance, visit Wikipedia and Hinduism at

The next major festival in 2009--and it's big--is the five-day celebration of Diwali on Saturday, October 17. According to Wikipedia, in Hinduism, across many parts of India and Nepal, it is the homecoming of Rama after a 14-year exile in the forest and his victory over the Ravana. In the legend, the people of Ayodhya (the capital of his kingdom) welcomed Rama by lighting rows (avali) of lamps (dĭpa), thus its name: dīpāwali. Over time, this word transformed into Diwali in Hindi and Dipawali in Nepali, but still retained its original form in South and East Indian Languages.

Like many major cultural observances, Diwali includes holiday-specific songs, special food, new clothes, sweets, and the exchange of gifts.

In India and Nepal, Diwali is now considered to be a national festival, and the aesthetic aspect of the festival is enjoyed by most Indians and Nepalese regardless of faith. For more helpful helpful background on this festival, visit Wikipedia and Diwali Festival.

From the New York Times

A recent article in the New York Times gives a glimpse into the lives of newly resettled Bhutanese refugees in the Bronx, New York. The article is accompanied by an excellent photo slide show by photojournalist Suzanne DeChillo.

An excerpt of the article follows. Click here to read the entire story, but do it soon--articles in the Times aren't available online indefinitely.

Bhutan Refugees Find a Toehold in the Bronx

Published: September 24, 2009

Nearly every immigrant group in New York City has a neighborhood, or at least a street, to call its own. But for refugees from the tiny South Asian nation of Bhutan, the closest thing to a home base is a single building in the Bronx — a red-brick five-story walk-up, with a weed-choked front courtyard and grimy staircases.

Eight families — more than 40 people — have taken up residence here in the past several months, part of a stream of thousands of Bhutanese refugees who have flowed into the United States in the past year and a half. With the help of resettlement agencies, many have found apartments in the Bronx, and the largest concentration has ended up here in the building on University Avenue.

This is their small toehold in a strange new world. The only life most have known was in the rural plains and Himalayan foothills of Bhutan and the dusty refugee camps of Nepal. Few have ever lived in homes with electricity or indoor plumbing, or between walls made of anything but bamboo. continued online

Mentioned in the article...

T.P. Mishra was a journalist in Nepal before being resettled in New York in 2009. He maintains a blog called Journalism in Exile, detailing his firsthand accounts of life as a refugee in the urban U.S. The current post is on top; to read previous and archived posts, scroll down or click on the months listed on the right side of the page.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Upcoming training sessions

There will be two more training sessions for new tutors in 2009.

Saturday, November 7

Saturday, December 12

Training sessions start at 8:00 a.m. and finish at 4:00 p.m.

If you would like to become an in-home tutor, or if you know of someone who would like to join our program, please visit our Website, Once you have explored the information there, click on the tab for "Application." The form you need is first on the list.

Please note! This is not an electronic form, nor is it intended to be! Complete the form by hand, and either fax it or mail it in. The application form serves as your training registration. You will be contacted with training session specifics once your application has been received.

We currently have more than 30 women waiting for a teacher!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Consider becoming a business partner

We are excited to announce that the ESL Department at Emily Griffith Opportunity School recently introduced the Pathways to Employment program for refugee students. It is a nine week job-readiness program focused on preparing students for clerical jobs in corporate and medical fields.

Students will attend classes six hours a day for eight weeks, studying basic computer skills, introduction to American business culture, customer service skills, clerical skills, business writing, introduction to medical occupations and how to find a job. In the ninth week of the program, students will job shadow or intern in a business for one week. The goal of this internship is to provide students an opportunity to have hands-on experience in the American business environment.

We are looking for organizations that would be interested in partnering with Emily Griffith to provide shadow opportunities for our students. If you, a friend, or a family member work in an organization that might be interested in having one of our students as an intern for a week, please contact Jaclyn Yelich at 720-423-4854 or email her at

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

No, I didn't get your fax

The fax machine in the ESL department is currently out of order. No faxes have been received since Friday, September 11. The machine is not expected to be repaired until at least Friday of this week.

If you are waiting for a response to a fax, or if you sent in your training application/registration, please be patient.

Thank you.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Because I always do the talking


Your in-home tutoring coordinator has an opportunity for you to share your experience as a volunteer in the CRESL program. You don't need any special training for this assignment.

On Saturday, September 19, I will have a booth at Festival International in Aurora. I'll be there all day, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 pm.

Alas, I will be alone.

I am looking for two or three current or former volunteers to assist me in the booth.

  • Greet visitors
  • Explain a bit about refugees
  • Explain the basics of the in-home tutoring program
  • Talk about the volunteer program at Emily Griffith (if you're familiar)
  • Hand out brochures
  • Talk about your experience as an in-home tutor.

This is actually quite fun--especially if you enjoy talking to people. If you would like to help out (and I really do need help!), please call me 720-423-4843 or drop me a line at before Thursday, September 17.

I look forward to spending quality time with you! --SM

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Inservice confirmed!

Here are the final details about the upcoming in-service training. This session is open to all program volunteers, including those who are "on hiatus" from tutoring and those who will be attending the new-tutor training on September 26.

Refugee Resettlement and
Stateside Case Management

Your questions answered until your brain is full

Susan Anderson, Case Management Administrator
Lutheran Family Services, Refugee & Asylee Programs

Thursday, September 24
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Emily Griffith Opportunity School
1250 Welton St. (Room TBD)

We are located downtown, next to the Colorado Convention Center,
and just one-half block north of Colfax

Join us for an informative discussion of the many details involved in resettling refugees. Find out how the national program is structured, where the money comes from, and who oversees resettlement locally.

Susan will explain the benefits and financial assistance that refugees receive once they are in the United States. She will also talk about the responsibilities that refugees have upon entering the program, expectations on both sides, and what happens when the resettlement relationship breaks down. Susan will also share information regarding refugee education, housing, and why access to services changes after the first year of resettlement has finished.

Bring your questions! If possible, email your questions in advance so Susan can address your specific concerns. This is your opportunity to gain an understanding of why the refugees you meet appear to have different levels of support.

Susan Anderson oversees case management services to refugees, asylees, and victims of human trafficking for four federal programs throughout Colorado and the region. Ms. Anderson is a member of Colorado’s Network to End Human Trafficking, which works to prevent human trafficking in the state. Ms. Anderson has traveled throughout the country assessing the U.S. refugee program, providing training to Lutheran social ministry organizations and ensuring appropriate services are provided to refugees, asylees and others.

You must RSVP if you are planning to attend. We need an accurate headcount so we can book the appropriate room.
Click here to confirm attendance via email no later than Monday, September 22. Persons responding after 9/22 will be accepted on a space-available basis.

Yes, there will be training!!!

If you have not yet attended a training session for incoming in-home tutors but you are ready to volunteer in the program, mark your calendar!

Training for new tutors
Saturday, September 26
8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

To download an application (you have to print it out and use a pen!), please go to You cannot attend the session if you have not submitted an application.

Details will follow by regular U.S. mail--if you turned in your application.

Hope to see new tutors soon!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The blog lives (as does the blogger)

Updated blog posts coming soon! In the meantime, please note the following:

In-service Training
For all volunteers!
Saturday, September 12*
9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon
Emily Griffith Opportunity School

Topic: To be determined!
Date is very, very tentative

We haven't yet chosen a topic or a speaker. What would you like to learn about? In the course of the year, we offer eight hours of in-service training.
  • four hours of language teaching techniques or curriculum topics
  • four hours of refugee resettlement topics, including updates on overseas developments, new populations, health, benefits, cultural information, etc.
This time around, we are due for a resettlement topic. What would you like to know? Is there something about refugees you've wanted to learn but didn't know how to find the information?

If you have a suggestion or request, click on the word "comment" below this post to share your ideas. You don't need to have an account--just select the "name" option. Others will be able to see your comment, and that might get a good conversation going.

Don't delay in making your suggestions--I need time to line up a speaker. Let those ideas flow!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dispatch from the field

One of the most rewarding--and interesting--aspects of being an in-home tutor is learning about your student's life: past, present, and future aspirations. As Americans, we live in a culture where we hesitate to ask about personal sstories for fear of stirring up bad memories. The truth is, our students are adults and they wholly reserve the right to say they don't want to talk about it. Making the effort to get to know your student on a personal level, though, is a gift you give to both of you.

Our guest blogger today is Jean Clark, who has been tutoring a group of Burmese Karen women. Along the way, she has also become a close friend of the families and some of their friends. Jean encourages her students to speak so they are comfortable using what they learn. As a result, she has learned a few things, as well.

Recently, I had the opportunity to be alone with Htee Ku Paw as we drove to one of her (many) appointments. She is doing so well learning English. The joke is that Htee Ku Paw is everyone's English student because she goes to any class that is available. One thing that she does not like to do is speak extemporaneously. I thought that since we were alone, I'd push her to do just that. I explained what we were going to do but that I'd go first. Our rule is, if she doesn't understand a word, she must stop me. So, I talked to her about my childhood. Then I asked her to do the same. Quiet, quiet and I didn't interrupt the quiet. Finally, she started to talk. I did help her by asking questions. This is what I learned.

She was born in a small village, the oldest of five children, four girls and one boy. She told me that her father and mother were farmers—rice and vegetables. She also told me that her father was a tailor and her mother was a weaver. Htee Ku Paw learned to sew and weave from the age of 8. Her mother wanted her to carry on the Burmese Karen weaving tradition.

Her father had a sewing machine and people would come to their home to have clothes made. They would bring their own fabric. Htee Ku Paw's mother would weave things that people would buy.

Htee Ku Paw’s father started a school for tailoring. Students would sign up for six months, and he would give them a certificate when they finished the term. I don't know where he got the machines for the class, but I do know that he found a building that he could use for these classes.

When Htee Ku Paw was about 17, Burmese soldiers came to their village to capture all of the men. Her father and brother escaped into the jungle and returned when it was safe. At 18, she and a friend decided to go to the refugee camp in Thailand. She didn't tell me much about their journey other than the fact that it was dangerous.

Htee Ku Paw had an aunt and uncle at the camp, so she lived with them until she met Thaw and married him in 1997. Htee Ku Paw's youngest sister, Paw, moved to the United States before her. Paw married an American (Anglo) in Colorado. They have a 1-year-old daughter and they currently live in a Denver suburb.

I believe that Htee Ku Paw’s father is dead and that her mother and another sister left the camp recently to return to their village. The village is not a safe place to live. It is raided by government soldiers periodically, forcing everyone to flee into the jungle. Htee Ku Paw has no way to get in touch with them. I cannot stop thinking about how I might to go about finding them.

If you would like to try your hand at sharing your in-home tutoring experiences as a guest blogger, send your essay to

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Share what you know!

Although we work with adults in our program, some of the tutors also have experience tutoring children. A group in Minneapolis has asked us to join in their dialogue about working with kids. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions for them? If so, post your comments over at

Monday, April 13, 2009

UNHCR kids' poster contest

Do you know a young artist who has talent, awareness, and compassion? UNHCR will once again sponsor its World Refugee Day poster contest, under the continued patronage of UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie. Elementary, middle and high school students are invited to design a poster around the theme “Real People, Real Needs.”

“Refugees are real people, just like you and me; they have very real needs, such as shelter, food, water, medical care and education. Think about what you would need to survive as a refugee. How would you want people to treat you? Design a poster using your imagination and creativity to show how we can help refugees.”
- Angelina Jolie
Posters should creatively illustrate what life is like for the millions of refugee children who flee their home countries due to war, persecution and human rights violations.

Prize: UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie will present an award to the winner in each category at the World Refugee Day ceremony on June 18, 2009, in Washington, DC. Winning posters will be exhibited at the National Geographic Museum.

Eligibility: Students in grades 4-12 in US public, private, parochial and home school programs are eligible to enter the contest. Each entry must be sponsored by a teacher or principal from the student’s school. All entries must include the entry form listing the student’s name, grade and age, educator’s name and email address, school name and address. Schools must be willing to sanction and coordinate this event. (This is probably just a matter of asking.)

Entry Categories: Entries will be judged in the three following age groups: Grades 4-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12.

Format: Posters should be no larger than 11 by 17 inches. Sculptures, clip art, and computer generated entries cannot be accepted.

Deadline: All entries must be postmarked by midnight, Friday, May 15, 2009.

For the full rules and entry form, click here. To see examples of previous winning posters, click here. Click on any of the small pictures to the left to see more examples.

UNHCR has an abundance of materials on its Website to help young people learn about refugees and human rights. The Refugee Stories page gives kids an oportunity to read what young refugees have written about their lives in exile. Some refugee children tell their stories with pictures, not words. you can see some their drawings on the Refugee Artwork page. Finally, UNHCR has some ideas about what any of us can do to help refugees living abroad and those who have resettled here. Click here find out how to help.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Puppets, planning, and pipe cleaners

The weather reports sounded dire and it appeared that the inservice training would be postponed--again. In the end, there was no blizzard, almost no snow at all, and it was a good morning to get together and learn something new.

Only ten in-home volunteers joined us for the training. Although the turnout was lackluster, to say the least, enthusiasm was high among those in attendance. Having such small groups meant we had the luxury of lots of one-to-one instruction and an opportunity to tailor the training to the specific needs of the attendees.

Kim Hosp and Cayenna Johnson helped walk the tutors through the process of lesson planning, linking the four skill areas within a lesson and then carrying over the material from one week to the next, and effectively incorporating text books into a lesson. Each time I peeked into the room, the tutors were deeply engrossed in the presentation. As soon as I get the highlights of these presentations, I'll post them here.

The other two presentations came courtesy of Kate Goodspeed and Sharon McCreary (me). Kate's lively presentation addressed the needs of our most prevalent type of student in the home-tutoring program--the pre-literate, zero-level English learner. When I poked my head in and checked on Kate's session, the five volunteers were actively engaged in activities meant to elicit speaking from the absolute beginner language student. The use of puppets was particularly original, and Kate's lesson underlined the need to present material in ways that are interesting, effective, and fun.

The final presentation was truly hands-on. I demonstrated many different ways to use index cards as teaching tools, how to break away from keeping lessons on paper, and how to use a wide variety of manipulatives including pipe cleaners, picture cards, textured letters, and musical instruments.

Huge, huge thanks to Cayenna, Kate, and Kim for putting in the time to prepare excellent, targeted lessons (entirely based on your questions and requests for help), and for giving up part of their weekend to teach for free.

The next inservice training will be sometime this summer. If you would like to suggest a topic, be sure to let me know. I hope to see you then--many more of you!

Are you intrigued by this picture? Most things about our inservice trainings are intriguing--but only to those who attend!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Join Denver's Bhutanese refugee community for
Bhutanese & Nepalese
New Year Celebrations
Sunday, April 5th--4:00 pm

New Covenant Christian Church
825 Ivanhoe St.
Denver, CO 80220
Chief Guest : Paul Stein, Director, Colorado Refugee Services Program

This event commemorates the Bhutanese new year with exciting cultural programs, folk dances and authentic Bhutanese food.

The dance dramas are common traditional features usually accompanied by traditional music. Energetic dancers, wearing colourful face masks and stylized costumes, depict heroes, demons, death heads, animals, gods, and caricatures of common people. The dance performances preserve ancient folk and religious customs.

Heavy weather

If you are planning to join us for the inservice training on Saturday...

Currently, the National Weather Service is predicting light snow for Saturday morning, with snow and wind increasing later in the day.

If this forecast remains as it is, the inservice will take place as planned. I'll be sure to have tea and coffee on hand.

If it looks like the snow will be heavy or the conditions will be dangerous, I will postpone the session until a future date. In the event the training session is canceled, I will post something here and I will also try to personally reach everyone who told me they were planning to attend--if I have their phone numbers.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

More on the inservice

Saturday, April 4
10:00 a.m. to noon
Emily Griffith Opportunity School
Rooms 146-148

There are two more sessions for the volunteer inservice training...
Open to all CRESL Tutors (even those on hiatus)

Linking it together!
Do you need help creating a lesson that hits all four language skill areas: listening, speaking, reading, writing? This session will help tutors understand how to recycle lesson content to incorporate all skill areas while working within one lesson or topic. In addition, the instructor will show how to use a textbook as one tool in the teaching/learning process. Tutors will explore a variety of textbooks as part of a lesson planning exercise.
Kim Hosp, CRESL Instructor

Index cards and manipulatives
Learn fun and interesting ways to use simple index cards and everyday items to provide texture, touch, and movement in your lessons. Add a dash of fun and involve the senses in any lesson you plan!
Sharon McCreary, CRESL Instructor

Don't forget the rest of what's being offered!

  • Lesson planning: Effective lesson planning suited to in-home tutoring will be explained, as well as how to incorporate and revisit lesson material throughout all activities in a session. Cayenna Johnson, CRESL instructor

  • Getting started speaking & Language lessons without literacy: How do you help someone learn to speak English now when she has no familiarity with the language and no experience with printed materials? Conversation strategies, vocabulary building, and person-to-person activities will be included. Information can be adapted for higher-level students. Kate Goodspeed, CRESL instructor

Two sessions will run concurrently each hour. Please choose your sessions and let us know ahead of time which you plan to attend so the presenters can prepare.


Saturday, February 28, 2009

Welcome to America

There is really no shortage of media coverage about good people doing extraordinary things. I make a point of watching the last five minutes of the national news every Friday night--any broadcast network will do--because those few minutes of the week highlight the contributions of normal people making a remarkable difference in the world.

CNN devotes a whole year of stories to this concept, culminating in distinguishing honors for a group of ten people every year. Not all are from the U.S., but most are. The reason I mention the geography comes from a bit of frustration I tend to harbor. In the course of the year, the volunteer coordinators in the Colorado Refugee Network attend nonprofit fairs throughout the metro area. When people approach our booth for information about our programs, we are frequently asked the same question: "Do you have volunteer positions overseas?" Or, with a measure of disappointment, "Oh. So, you only help people who are here?"

All three of us are quick to point out that a refugee arriving on American shores has just begun a whole new struggle. There are plenty of ways to contribute to world peace and international relations right here in the town where you live. Many people are surprised to find out refugees are here at all. If you aren't aware of their presence, it's because they're often all but invisible...Except to those of us who devote our waking hours to this particular cause.

Even those who are familiar with the refugee resettlement program are often unaware of just how truly grassroots most of the programs are. Our programs cannot exist without community support, church partnerships, devoted teachers, tutors for adults and kids, mentors, first friends, a small army of volunteers, plus all of the people who donate money, furniture, household goods, and time setting up apartments and taking refugees to their many appointments. Refugee resettlement works because it takes a community to welcome a new one to the mix, and communities have a way of knowing what to do.

One of CNN's 2009 Heroes is Carolyn Manning of Phoenix, Arizona. I'll say this for CNN: The network has consistently shown a commitment to telling the story of refugees and the resettlement process. That Ms. Manning was chosen to be honored by CNN this year is one more example of CNN's understanding that this work matters.

Carolyn Manning started an organization called The Welcome to America Project. Her program assists newly arrived refugees by furnishing apartments and providing support and guidance in the time immediately after arrival. To find out more about The Welcome to America Project and Carolyn Manning, click here to visit CNN's Website. This link takes you to an entire web page with videos dedicated to this topic.

Congratulations to Carolyn Manning and her team of volunteers. They do the same work as many other people assisting refugees throughout the U.S., so as a 2009 CNN Hero, Ms. Manning carries the torch for all of you who volunteer your time and open your hearts to refugee newcomers every day. To the volunteers in the CRESL program and others like it, congratulations to you, too, for your fine work! You are all my heroes every day.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Inservice training rescheduled!

Open to all CRESL Tutors (even those on hiatus)

Saturday, April 4
10:00 a.m.
Emily Griffith Opportunity School

So far, two presenters are confirmed and they will teach about:
  • Lesson planning: Effective lesson planning suited to in-home tutoring will be explained, as well as how to incorporate and revisit lesson material throughout all activities in a session. Cayenna Johnson, CRESL instructor

  • Getting started speaking & Language lessons without literacy: How do you help someone learn to speak English now when she has no familiarity with the language and no experience with printed materials? Conversation strategies, vocabulary building, and person-to-person activities will be included. Information can be adapted for higher-level students. Kate Goodspeed, CRESL instructor

We hope to add two more sessions, so watch this blog for updates!
RSVP by March 31.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

At a later date...

Inservice training postponed

Sorry about that. There has been a problem coordinating with presenters and their schedules. We can't have a training session with no one to teach it!

Watch this space for the new date and topic.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

African Extravaganza!

The African Community Center and the University of Denver present
African Extravaganza 2009
February 18th-20th
University of Denver
Driscoll Hall

Voices of Refugees
Wednesday, February 18th, 6pm – 9pm
Davis Auditorium in Sturm Hall, 2000 E. Asbury Ave.

Hear the extraordinary and powerful stories of a diverse group of refugees who will share personal narratives of flight and refuge. Refugees from Iraq, Bhutan and Congo will give insights into the challenges and triumphs of living as a refugee and being resettled in the United States, and of joining a new community and finding new hope.

Kutaiba Abdulmahdi from Iraq will speak about his work with the US government during the war in Iraq and his subsequent resettlement in the United States.

MacGoddins Lushimba from Congo will talk about his advocacy efforts to bring awareness of refugee issues in Congo and throughout the world.

The Dhakal Family from Bhutan will paint an intergenerational picture of life between their two nations: Bhutan and Nepal, and 17 years in a refugee camp in Nepal.

African Extravaganza
Friday, February 20th, 6pm-9pm
Driscoll Ballroom, 2055 East Evans Ave.
Take part in a night of delicious food, an international marketplace, and extraordinary singing, dancing and drumming by African performers! Meals will be available, for purchase from Café Africana (Ethiopian food), Marrakesh (Moroccan food), and the Palava (Pan-African food). A Little Something will be there selling our handmade jewelry and weaving!
Suggested Donation: $5

Photography Exhibit
February 18th – 20th
Peruse the photo exhibit in the Gallery at Driscoll Center.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dentists Across Colorado Give Kids a Smile by Providing Free Dental Care

Every February the Colorado Dental Association organizes the statewide Give Kids a Smile Day program – a program that offers FREE dental care to low-income families without dental insurance or the ability to afford dental care. This program is in its seventh year and was created to provide free dental treatment and education to qualifying kids and to draw attention to the struggle that many families face when trying to obtain basic dental care. It also lets legislators know that these kids deserve a better health care system.

Give Kids a Smile Day is Friday, February 6, 2009. Participating dental offices across the State are in need of qualifying kids to treat for this program. There are still 300 appointment slots available throughout the state. The majority of the appointments, however, are in the metro area, including Aurora, Boulder, Centennial, Denver, Englewood, Lafayette, Lakewood, Littleton, Lone Tree, Louisville, and Thornton. Click here for a list of specific offices and their contact information to make appointments.

The Colorado Dental Association would LOVE your help in communicating this opportunity to families.

Please remember that appointments are first-come, first-served, so the sooner families can call, the better. When making an appointment, the caller should say that he/she is "calling to make an appointment for Give Kids a Smile Day." Please note that only a limited number of appointment slots are available.

NOTE: To qualify, families must meet ALL of the following criteria:

  • Be low-income and/or a part of the free and reduced lunch program.
  • Be dentally uninsured (no insurance or CHP+ coverage).
  • Unable to afford dental care.
For more detailed information, please call Molly Pereria at 303-996-2844 (please do not have patients call).

Friday, January 23, 2009

Our hearts go out to the family of Bishnu Adhikari, who passed away last night. Bishnu was in her mid-forties. She leaves behind her husband and four children.

The Bhutanese family arrived in Denver in January of 2008 from Nepal. Ferdi Mevlani of Ecumenical Refugee Service has set up an account at Wells Fargo to accept donations to help the family with funeral expenses. Donations may be made at any Wells Fargo Bank; reference Bishnu Adhikari or Ferdinant Mevlani.

I will post the funeral information when it is available. Thank you for any support you can give--the family is in great need.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mark your calendar

February 28
(It's a Saturday)
Inservice training for all in-home tutors.
Details to follow. For now, please pencil this in on your calendar. Unless you use a Palm Pilot.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I have no idea what I'm doing!

You've attended training, read the handbook, and been assigned to a student. You watched the language and literacy assessment. The volunteer coordinator has packed up her materials and headed out the door. Now, it's the moment you feared: You are alone with your student and you have no idea where to start.

Don't panic. There are a couple of things to know.

  • First, you can't do this wrong, and you won't inflict any permanent linguistic damage.
  • Second, there are a wealth of resources available to you, and many of them are free and online.

A week ago, we had the good fortune to attend a training session with Kathy Santopietro Weddel (see the post below this one). Her presentation focused on addressing literacy with the nonliterate student. Kathy encouraged us to go online and check out the teacher's toolkit at the Website for the Center for Applied Linguistics.

The document is over 200 pages of valuable and practical information. Again, don't panic--you can read it online, print it out, print out the sections you want, save it to your hard drive, etc. It's a pdf file, but you probably have Adobe Acrobat's reader already installed on your computer.

This toolkit has something helpful to address almost any ESL or literacy tutor (or classroom teacher). You don't need to enroll in a university class--the information you're looking for is in this toolkit!

To access the toolkit, click here. While you're on the CAL/CAELA site, look around--there is a lot of valuable information here to support your teaching. Remain calm--there is no need to panic!

Monday, January 12, 2009

An exceptional opportunity!

ESL Literacy Q & A and Training
Kathleen Santopietro-Weddel is coming to Denver!

Kathleen Santopietro-Weddel, a teacher trainer for the Northern Colorado Professional Development Center in Longmont, has experience as a classroom teacher, project coordinator, teacher trainer, speaker, and curriculum development consultant. She has authored several literacy textbooks and is a sought-after trainer and popular presenter at conferences.

What: A teacher trainer with amazing expertise is coming in from Longmont to answer questions and discuss how to help our ESL literacy students more effectively.

When: This Wednesday, January 14, 2009 3:00 – 4:30 or 5:00

Where: Emily Griffith Opportunity School--Room 433 (tentatively)

Who: Anyone who works with literacy-level ESL students or who just wants to learn more about helping adults learn to read. Classroom and in-home volunteers are encouraged to attend.

Cost: FREE!!!!
(You can’t beat that! What a deal!! What an opportunity!)

Bring your questions and examples of your most frustrating, difficult cases.
Please RSVP (ESL Office, 720-423-4752) ASAP so we can ensure seats for all.

Emily Griffith Opportunity School, 1250 Welton St., Denver, Colorado

Friday, January 9, 2009

Save The Date For


Friday-Saturday February 6-7, 2009
8am-1:30pm (Lunch provided)


Focus Points Family Resource Center
3532 Franklin Street
Denver, Colorado 80205

Workshop schedule and details to follow
Topics will include ESL, Family Literacy, Math, ABE, GED and more!

** Workshops are approved by CDE/AEFL (Colorado Department of Education/Adult Education Family Literacy) for Professional Development Hours.

For early registration, please send your name, email address, telephone number, and the town where you’re from to:
Molly Elkins 303-688-7646 or

UNHCR, Ben Affleck, The Stones, & You

It's interesting how things that come into our heads have a way of appearing and reappearing in our consciousness. For many years, I loved the Rolling Stones' song, Gimme Shelter. In fact, it's one of the top-three songs on my favorites playlist on my iPod. I've always thought the song's message was somewhat out of character within the Stones' musical collection, but it stands on its own as a strong piece of music with one heck of a powerful message. I saw the Stones play live in Atlantic City in late December 1989 (16 rows from the stage!). That night's version of Gimme Shelter gave me chills and cemented it in my mind as one of the most meaningful songs of our time. Silly, you say? Have you ever listened to the words? Here are abridged lyrics, reprinted without any type of permission whatsoever:

Gimme Shelter
(M. Jagger/K. Richards)

Oh, a storm is threat'ning
My very life today
If I don't get some shelter
Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away

War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

Ooh, see the fire is sweepin'
Our very street today
Burns like a red coal carpet
Mad dog lost its way

War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

Rape, murder!
It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

The floods is threat'ning
My very life today
Gimme, gimme shelter
Or I'm gonna fade away

War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

I tell you love, sister, it's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away
Kiss away, kiss away

This song is brought to mind because just this week, UNHCR launched a Global Appeal to raise funds for humanitarian efforts in Eastern Congo, featuring a film called Gimme Shelter that was directed by actor Ben Affleck. The film is currently available on YouTube.

"We made this film in order to focus attention on the humanitarian crisis in the DRC at a time when too much of the world is indifferent or looking the other way," said Affleck, who launched the film at a special briefing with UNHCR at the United Nations in New York on Dec. 17. "The suffering and loss we've all seen first-hand is staggering; it is beyond belief."

Affleck traveled this fall to the strife-torn North Kivu region of the DRC, where thousands have fled their homes since August. The film is set to the Rolling Stones' song Gimme Shelter, which Jagger and the group donated to the campaign.

Jagger described the human suffering in the DRC as appalling and expressed strong support for Affleck’s awareness-raising efforts.

"The Rolling Stones are very happy to contribute Gimme Shelter in support of Ben's efforts to raise the profile of the conflict in the Congo," Jagger said. "I hope this video will help highlight the plight of the hundreds of thousands of displaced people and also the thousands of innocent people who are needlessly losing their lives there."

Gimme Shelter captures the unseen suffering of Congolese families who fled the fighting with next to nothing and are now forced to find refuge in makeshift huts with little to live on. Some 30,000 others have fled to neighboring Uganda and are receiving help from UNHCR.

There are currently 1.3 million displaced people in the DRC, many of them earlier victims caught up in an ongoing cycle of violence. The effects of the conflict have claimed as many as 5.4 million lives in the last 10 years, with an estimated 1,000 people still dying every day. In some areas, two out of three women have been raped. Abductions persist in all brutal forms and children are forcefully recruited to fight. Outbreaks of cholera and other diseaseshave increased as the humanitarian situation deteriorates.

Click here to watch this short film.

for more information on the Gimme shelter campaign and the events in DRC, go to