SHAREing & CAREing Program Manager Merryl Reichbach developed and presented the workshop “Welcome to NYC: Adapting to Life in Queens and the USA” at the Elmhurst Branch of the Queens Public Library on August 8, 2017 1-3pm for three classes of beginner-intermediate level ESOL students.
Over 30 students attended, in addition to six library teachers and staff members including the QPL Community Health Programs Coordinator, Tamara Michel and the Library Literacy Center Manager, Michelle Johnston. The ESOL students were primarily very recent immigrants from countries including Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Myanmar, Ecuador and India.
The program was a huge success! Participants openly appreciated having this opportunity to practice their English language skills while addressing a topic that generates a lot of feelings and language.
Students were provided with several handouts to spark discussion, including quotes by famous people about New York City, and a simple survey with prompts for them to describe their experiences, hopes and opinions. Popular themes that emerged included how people in NYC are very different from their home countries, coping with the increased noise level (“lots of cars, trains, buses, ambulances…no birds”) and the quick pace “of everything.” Many students appreciated the variety of food available (“cherries!”) and, in spite of the chaos of the city, feeling safer here now than in their home countries. A variety of supplemental handouts were provided to enable students to problem solve beyond the workshop.
A primary goal of this class is to help participants reflect on the challenging transition moving from their home country to NYC, and to develop their English language skills while doing so. Another is to ensure that participants know about variety of services SHAREing & CAREing provides, including free counseling for people impacted by cancer and linkages to low-cost and free healthcare screenings regardless of insurance and immigration status. Often students need assistance and don’t realize that it is available. After programs like this, we have received follow up calls from former participants and staff thanking us for the information and requesting our assistance.