The first time I met Ashraf in person was when she visited the English Online office to meet with Blaine, one of our e-facilitators. She was a petite lady, but she had a strong positive presence. She was all smiles and said “thank you!” to each of us as she was introduced. The visit was a rare treat for us, because we usually meet our learners online.
Weeks later, I was fortunate to meet Ashraf again, this time on Skype. I had asked to interview her for a learner story and she agreed. Ashraf had just come home after working as a lunch assistant at a nearby school and was probably tired, but she was smiling on screen exactly at 2:00 p.m. We exchanged the usual pleasantries and I was impressed by how well she could converse. She pauses sometimes to recall certain words, but her sentences are clear and correctly constructed. The gracious lady thanked me for contacting her, even if it was I who requested the meeting.
During their first few days in Manitoba, the couple quickly learned that in order to do tasks like shopping, seeing a doctor, and to avail of basic services, they needed to know English. Despite having their kids to assist them, Ashraf and her husband did not want to depend on them. This was why the couple decided to enroll in English classes right away.
Ashraf and her husband came to Manitoba just eight months ago (they came in June 2015) from Iran. The couple’s two children have been living in Manitoba for several years now – the daughter came here 14 years ago and the son had been here for four years. Ashraf and her husband came to Manitoba because they wanted their family to be reunited, especially now that they had three grandchildren. “I want to be close to my grandchildren (an eight-year-old boy and twin girls aged 10). I can now go and visit them during weekends and it makes me happy,” Ashraf said.
During their first few days in Manitoba, the couple quickly learned that in order to do tasks like shopping, seeing a doctor, and to avail of basic services, they needed to know English. Despite having their kids to assist them, Ashraf and her husband did not want to depend on them. This was why the couple decided to enroll in English classes right away. However, when Ashraf accepted the lunch assistant job, she found that she could not join her husband in a daily, face to face English class.
Prior to coming to Manitoba, Ashraf had already taken some English classes. However, the retired teacher felt that she needed to improve her English more, and so she tried English Online. The flexible schedule and the topics appealed to her. “I attend coffee chats where I learn with a group of people from other countries like India, Pakistan; it is good. Everyone is so friendly and helpful, Ashraf said.
To further accelerate her learning, she was matched with an EAL e-tutor.“My e-tutor, Carol, is from Vancouver. She is a very good and a very nice teacher. We meet once a week and she gives me homework,” she said. For Ashraf, the best thing about learning with English Online is “learning useful things without going outside. I can learn when I don’t have time to go to class,” she added. But more than this, learning with English Online has given her independence. “Now I can go shopping by myself, she says. I don’t have to bother my children. I still need my daughter to come with me when I go to the doctor, but for shopping, I can do it myself,” Ashraf said.
“Don’t worry, everything here is good!
In the course of our conversation, Ashraf mentioned that she had a minor accident last week. “I slipped and fell on the ice at school. But it’s okay, a lot of people, especially the kids helped me. The doctor told me nothing was broken but I had to rest, so I did not go to school for two days. But I am okay now,” Ashraf said. When I expressed my concern, she flashed her smile again, as if to say, that “it is nothing”.
This positivity and can-do spirit are quite admirable. Ashraf is the kind of person who does not let circumstances get her down. So when she shared her plans on going back to teaching in the near future, I had no doubt in my mind that she will succeed.
When asked for advice for her fellow newcomers, Ashraf said: “Don’t worry, everything here is very good. A lot of people will help you when you come here. Don’t stop learning. Go and learn English, she said.”