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One Box, One Book at a Time

Walking through the freshly painted rooms at the new location of the Dominican Learning Center and watching where I stepped so that I gave the construction workers still making finishing touches plenty of room, I thought back with wonder to my previous tour. Just a month or so prior, it was difficult to imagine the rooms when there were no walls, when the wood and metal and stone and wires were all visible. In just another month or so, these empty rooms would be filled with learners and tutors sitting side by side reviewing workbook exercises and practicing English.

Moves are hard. During my own move to Columbus to start my job with the Dominican Sisters of Peace, I remember moments, pushing yet another bin packed to the lid with items or hauling yet another stuffed cardboard box from my apartment to my car, that I wasn’t sure if I could do it. Another carload of items? How much did I stuff into that little closet of mine?! When was I going to donate the furniture I didn’t want to take with? When was I going to find the time to vacuum and clean before handing over the keys? In those moments, I’d remind myself that I was already doing it, that I just had to do it, and that God would get me through somehow, like God always did.

Our learners are contending with even bigger moves—not just from one office location to another, or from one city to another, but from one country and culture and language to another. Visiting one of the community learning centers founded by the Dominican Sisters of Peace, it is not hard to see how the ministry makes a concreate difference for those building a new life in a new land. When I attended an advisory council meeting at the Springs Learning Center in New Haven, Connecticut, we were surrounded by shelves of learning materials: workbooks and flashcards about how to communicate with doctors and dentists, how to speak with neighbors and law enforcement, how to prepare for your driver’s license test. Learners share exciting updates: they can talk with their children’s teachers, they can speak to their coworkers and employers in English, they pass their citizenship test.

Our learning centers also celebrate the gifts that learners are bringing to our communities. One of the advisory council members at the table in New Haven was a former learner herself, and her perspective and experience is so valuable when planning the work of the center. When I visited the Siena Learning Center in New Britain, Connecticut, I admired the floral mural stretching across an office wall that was painted by a learner, as well as the lobby chairs painted by another learner—this artist decorated one chair with birds local to Connecticut and another with birds from the country they immigrated from. There was a map on the wall and photos featuring the learners and where their journey began.

They are building a new life for themselves, one new vocabulary word, one carefully constructed sentence, one practice conversation at a time. Moving takes courage and commitment, and it can seem overwhelming, but it’s one wall plastered and painted at a time, one cardboard box to the car at a time, one workbook at a time, all in God’s time.

3 thoughts on “One Box, One Book at a Time

  1. Thank you, Claire. Transitions/moves are difficult, but you have focused on the positive aspects amidst difficult times. The Learning Centers are great sources of hope.

  2. Thank you, Claire. You captured the immigrant transitions and challenges well- moving from one culture with its habits, perspectives, family, friends, home is not easy. Would that more recognized/understood/remembered tis.

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