I have been teaching ESL with ProGente Connections for a year and a half. When I first began in September 2017 I had never taught ESL before, so I was incredibly nervous. Who am I to be teaching ESL to adults older than me, with no experience? my anxious brain kept asking back then, and sometimes still does. I learned that English being my first language goes a long way, as does our curriculum partner Intercambio’s fabulous materials. Most importantly I learned that, especially with introductory ESL, expertise is sometimes less important than relationships. A successful class isn’t about me, it’s about a sense of community.
I have always taught. In Sunday school when I was 15, during my High school internship and have never stopped, both in Brazil and here in the United States. I have taught Portuguese and Literature, English as a second language, Portuguese as a second language, but it was only in 2015 through ProGente Connections and Portuguese Plus that I started teaching Portuguese as a Heritage Language.
In my nearly one and a half years volunteering with Progente Connections, I’m reminded of how important language is in the world today. Not only because there is only so much you can do without knowing what is going on around you, but also to make yourself heard and understood by those around you. You can be brilliantly eloquent in your native language, but for those who don’t know it in the slightest, they typically don’t understand why. This is why being bilingual (or trilingual or multilingual) is important.
Five years ago, a group of Christians from various faith traditions and various countries began meeting together to talk about ways we could join with each other to do God’s work and create a little bit of God’s kingdom here in MetroWest. Our specific vision - Working together, we will create a new kind of multicultural and ecumenical community based on mutual respect and service - grew out of months of conversation. From that vision, ProGente Connections was born.
This year, 1000 Episcopalians rode a fleet of 19 busses to the T. Don Hutto Residential Center where women immigrants in the custody of authorities are held. The Hutto Center is a for-profit prison which holds 500 detainees. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry addressed the crowd: “Jesus said, ‘Love God and love your neighbor.’ We come in love, that is the core of our faith, that is the heart of it. We come because we don’t believe that a great nation like this one separates children from their families…”