By Laurie T. D’Amico
A visit to the genealogy department of the Worcester Public library, any day of the week, will reveal a multicultural interest in Worcester’s past. In 1908, Americans saw an enormous in pouring of immigrants- in fact one of the greatest human migrations in history was spread throughout the North east portion of our country. Catholics, Jews, Protestants, Irish, Poles, Italians, Swedes, Czechs, Slovaks, Iranians, Lebanese, Danes, Norwegians, Lithuanians, Syrians and other Asians came to reside in Worcester.
Today Worcester welcomes people from Vietnam, Venezuela, Somalia, Romania, Laos, Liberia, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Burundi, Nepal Brazil and Bhutan (as well as 28 other countries). The countries may be different from 1908 but the reasons for coming to America “the land of opportunity” have not changed.
Every day adults make the commitment to learn our language, further their own education and study countless facts about America to gain citizenship. As the immigrants before them they are dedicated to living independent and productive lives in America. Adults of all stripes, like our flag, make America what we are and what we will become. Teaching English to new residents is the first step at strengthening democracy. An educated citizenry is what strengthens a community as a whole.
Worcester has not been able to pull together a comprehensive program for new arrivals even though we are an official resettlement site. Most other large cities such as Boston and Springfield have several programs running at all times for language classes and citizenship. Worcester offers college courses that cost hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars, a few churches and non profits offer band aid lessons but a huge gap exists for the new arrival that is desperate to learn. Often these families have lived through traumas we could not fathom.
They experience further isolation, abandonment and prejudice because they cannot speak the language. For so many new residents there is little hope of attaining independence without language assistance.
Literacy Volunteers of Greater Worcester (LVGW) was founded in 1973 as an affiliate of the Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc. LVGW serves adults who need literacy training in Greater Worcester Area. Although the center office is located in Worcester Public Library, LVGW serves different parts of Greater Worcester Area with handicapped friendly locations on city bus lines.
The reason behind choosing these locations is that these places are provided free to our organization and buses are the only way of transportation for some of our students. In addition, LVGW has partnered with other organizations like Great Brook Valley Health Care Refugees, The Willis Center ESL foster parent program, UMMS Researchers, MA Mental Health Clients to serve as many folks as possible.
Since its foundation, LVGW has been consistently successful in attracting a number of volunteer tutors to work with adult students in need of basic reading, writing, comprehension and other communication skills, including English as a second language. Today, LVGW offers a variety of ESOL and Reading programs to more than 300 students with 100 volunteer tutors who provide confidential, free, individualized and year-round tutoring.
LVGW has served many immigrants from Africa, East Europe, Middle East, South Asia and Latin America because of increasing immigration to Worcester and most of these immigrants need literacy training. LVGW is also aware of return to economic and social well-being to Greater Worcester Community by helping the immigrant population in the area. According to Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies, 100% of the growth in Massachusetts workforce over the past decade has come from immigrant labor.
LVGW implements three programs for our adult learning community: tutor training, conversation/structural language groups at our Literacy academy and one to one tutoring. LVGW is distinctive in that it provides free tutoring and affordable literacy training in the Greater Worcester Area.