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