When Benjamin Murekezi and his family were able to leave their refugee camp in Rwanda and come to the United States, they were excited but also scared. “To just go and not to know where I am going” and to not know English worried this father of six.
But when they got off the plane in Grand Rapids there were people with signs waiting to welcome him: “They say ‘welcome Benjamin, to the United States.’” One of those people holding a sign was Frank, his future tutor at the Literacy Center.
Literacy is more than words—it’s connection, it’s belonging, it’s opportunity.
When Benjamin and his family arrived in December 2016, they spoke three languages but did not know English. Soon Benjamin took a job that didn’t require English, but it also didn’t pay enough to support his family. He understood that “when you improve in English, you get more money,” and “when you speak the same language you can make the friends.”
Benjamin soon found support at the Literacy Center, working alongside his tutor, Frank. Because the Literacy Center provided instruction that was at his level, specific to his current needs, and worked with his schedule, Benjamin was able to advance his English. He also learned how to use a computer, how to pay bills, and read about current events.
As Benjamin advanced his English, he was able to advance his employment as well. He has been able to purchase a home for his family and is completing his commercial trucking license.
Benjamin puts it best: “A lot of people struggle. There are other people like me, but when they get the chance to learn English, they will get more opportunity.”