Literacy

Headline needed

Rochelle, need some text here. Reference the Human Trafficking page. The Human Trafficking page has the big message under the photo, then the sub head and statement about how the sisters are taking action, followed by the stories. See below that I have one story here for Immigration & Refugee.

Our sisters taking action

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Sister-Rose-Ann

Sister Rose Ann Reichlin tutors Sin Lin Tha, while his wife, A Phyu and daughter Maya Thazon observe.

“I feel I’m touching people at the margins. That’s what Francis did.”

This is how Sister Rose Ann Reichlin describes her ministry of teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to immigrants. From California, to Florida, to Peru and New York, she has been teaching ESL for many years.

Now in Buffalo, N.Y., she continues teaching ESL through the Buffalo School Adult Education Department. In 2012 she had 17 students in her class of Bhutanese, Burmese and Somalian adults. “It has been a particular challenge with most of the individuals being non-readers in their first language.”

Sister Rose Ann explains that these people have escaped from their countries and lived in border countries before coming to the United States. Some wait in camps in Thailand with tents as their home until a country will accept them. Some wait for years. They have escaped terrible conditions of war, violence, abuse, discrimination and living in constant fear. “It’s very rewarding to know that I’m helping when I see them arrive for class happy every day,” she says. “They bond together and their English is improving.”

Recognizing that education is the only way out of poor economic situations, Sister Rose Ann is inspired by her students’ desire to improve their lives. “They want to work. They want jobs and want their children to get jobs. They are not looking for a handout,” she says. Often, immigrants and refugees get the jobs that no one wants, she explains. Some have temporary jobs such as dishwashers and work through the night. Others are very industrious and even start small businesses. They may work in laundromats, nail salons or sell food and clothing in markets.

Sister Rose Ann tells of refugees who have left Myanmar (Burma) because of its military run government and daily violence. Here, people mainly work as farmers. They have no education at all and are unable to read or write. “Because they have no education in their own language, it is very challenging to teach them English,” she explains. It is also difficult for them to adapt to city life after only knowing the country life of a farmer.

Ten years ago, Sin Lin Tha, an educator in Burma decided to flee his country. It was his goal to reach Thailand and work to have his wife and two-year old son join him with the hopes of eventually coming to the U.S.

With the patience of Job, he waited 10 years before his wife and son were able to join him in Thailand. His son and wife looked forward to this long awaited reunion. They were traveling in a van with 20 other people. During the evening, as they approached the border, they could see the soldiers. The van driver made the decision to “gun it” to cross the border. The mother held her son tightly as the bullets flew. One went right through her hand that held her son close and killed the boy instantly. In order to continue the journey, she had to leave her son at the side of the road and go on. Her sorrow was unbearable. No other person in the van was killed.

For two more years, the couple lived in a tent within the confines of a camp. Eventually, they had another son and a daughter who was born with a cleft palate. Despite their tragedy, they finally made it to the U.S. where they met Sister Rose Ann. Although they still have their struggles, Sin Lin Tha is employed full-time and is able to support his family.

Sister Rose Ann says the plight of Sin Lin Tha and his family, is just one example of the many families who struggle as they leave their homelands seeking a better life. “The plight of their pain makes me want to do what I can. It has moved me as a Franciscan to work with the minority,” she says. “In appreciation for what I’ve been given, I want to give back.”

Sister Pat Rogan

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From salt marshes, to sandy beaches and gorgeous sunrises, Charleston, South Carolina is touted as one of the country’s most beautiful vacation destinations. Last year, readers of Condé Nast Traveler named Charleston the number one city in the U.S.

Yet, in the shadows of Charleston’s tourist attractions, there are areas travelers don’t often frequent. One of them is the city’s East End, where Sister Patricia Rogan educates the poor at Neighborhood House, a place of healing and compassion sponsored by Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach.

By preparing individuals for the GED test (the high school equivalency exam), she strives to empower African-American women to break out of the cycle of poverty through education. “When students pass the GED, their self-esteem improves and their hope of attaining employment becomes a real possibility,” she says.

Sister Patricia served as a teacher and principal for more than 20 years in Catholic schools in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She says she is happy to share her gifts with those who need them most. “It’s wonderful to have my teaching skills and to use them directly in working with the very poor,” she says.

Serving people in need with respect and dignity is both a responsibility and a privilege for Sister Patricia. “I try to bring the presence of Christ, the face of mercy and the face of Christ to those whom I serve.”

Sister Patricia, who also serves as a spiritual director and retreat facilitator, makes it a priority to tell others about the needs of the poor at Neighborhood House. As she travels throughout South Carolina to lead retreats, she “tries to make connections so people know about the needs of the poor and what they can do to help them,” she says.

Grateful to God for her life as a Franciscan sister, Sister Patricia says she has been gifted by those she serves. “I see in their eyes not only pain, but the love of God shining through this pain,” she says. “They have taught me gratitude, compassion, love and simplicity.”

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Rochelle, text

Rochelle, Text needed. Opportunity to say how people can help or give some statistics.