Maribel is a 34-year-old Salvadoran woman who came to the United States 11 years ago. She married here and had three children, who are now ages 9, 7, and 3. While Maribel came to the United States without the necessary immigration documents, she currently has Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which she obtained with the help of EBECC’s Immigration Department following the earthquakes in El Salvador five years ago. As a result of this status, Maribel was granted a work permit that gave her the legal right to hold a job in the United States. She works as an office cleaner at the John Hancock Tower, while her husband works as a baker for the Pillsbury Company in Chelsea.
Despite her many years of residence in East Boston, Maribel had never had the opportunity to study English because of her child care responsibilities. In the process of applying for TPS at EBECC, however, she learned about the Latina ESL Program and the free, on-site babysitting available while mothers study ESOL. She immediately registered and in late October began attending the Level I English class while the program’s babysitters cared for her youngest child.
Maribel made tremendous progress in the course. Despite the fact that she had received no formal education in El Salvador, she gained more confidence in her ability to learn and in her newfound knowledge each day. Her literacy skills improved as a result of much determination and hard work. During the final session of her Level I class, Maribel’s teacher asked her about the “achievement” of which she was most proud. Maribel responded:
“When my co-workers used to approach me to chat a bit, a curtain would close down my brain and I would panic. I would blurt out, ‘No speak English’ as fast as I could to save myself from embarrassment. But now I feel more confident. I listen to them, try not to panic, and try to answer questions. Last week, I even got up the courage to initiate a conversation with one of my co-workers. She asked me how to say some greetings in Spanish. I also talked to an elderly lady at the laundromat. We’ve seen each other there over the years, but we’ve never spoken. Well, last week, we talked for the first time. We pointed to things and taught each other the Spanish and English words for them. I’m not so afraid to try now.”