A couple years ago, Women of the World rebranded one of our three programs, changing the name from the Practical English Program to Community Development. We did not do this because we hired a consultant or because we stopped prioritizing practical English classes for the forcibly displaced women we serve, instead, we changed the name because our free, volunteer-led Practical English courses were the epicenter around which a safe space was developing for women. We started to see more new women come in for our classes and stay to chat with women from different countries or to ask about our other programs. Women of the World became the only place where some of our women felt safe and equal to others around them, our small office was an oasis for refreshing their dignity and sense of self.
There was a lot of happenstance in discovering the Women of the World recipe for developing community. We knew it would require women to share the similarities in their stories, but didn’t realize that their equality in struggling through language learning would be the venue. We wanted the community to involve women here seeking a better life as well as those born here, but didn’t realize that mentors and teachers would month after month beat a path to our door to make all of us a part of their family. We hoped that a social network would give them support in the hardest time, but instead, we have been awestruck with how they have lifted one another up to each become more self-reliant and self-aware.
Each December, individual achievements on the path to self-reliance are recognized in another event that furthers the scope of our community development – the Annual Celebration of Women’s Success. This is our 10th annual awards ceremony and it still manages to leave me speechless. First, we purposefully crowd everyone together, you have to sit at the same table or shoulder to shoulder with someone you don’t know, someone whose life experiences are much different from yours. Next, we present the awards and ask each awardee to say something about their accomplishments. And finally, we share a meal. A simple program that contains within it the opportunity for us to realize an important milestone in developing community… sharing in the successes of the new members of our community and breaking bread in this celebration.
This year was the first full year of our new Intensive English Class and the benefits of this class showed through in the speeches given by women that had started the year with no abilities in English. They all talked about their struggles in the past and their hopes for their future with their new skill. All of the women that received recognition have shown amazing persistence in the face of extraordinary odds, they have befriended women from the community willing to mentor them that have furthered their goals, and they have achieved significant milestones that will ensure not only their success, but the successes of their children.
Every year, Women of the World works with incredibly resilient, determined women who hold themselves to a high standard in their work ethic and goal setting. It is an honor to celebrate their accomplishments at the end of each year, so that their community can stand in support of their persistence and achievements.
Below are a brief sample of their stories:
Aime has been working hard on learning English, and recently she was paired with a mentor to help her practice through WoW’s mentorship program. This year she also got a job, a goal that she has been working towards and hoping for for a long time. She is earning her own income and learning valuable skills while working on her English and learning applicable vocabulary.
Ana is starting college in the Spring of 2020! She is kind, smart, and driven to succeed. She is working towards a career where she can spend every day helping people. Her compassion for others is readily visible in the way she helps care for and encourage her siblings.
Inaam has shown tremendous growth during her time as a friend at Women of the World, transitioning from wanting consistent guidance and support in every decision, to being independent and confident in her actions; from shyness within her community to defending herself and her children whenever the need arises.
Kurdet Isilay graduated medical school in Turkey, going on to work in underserved areas until the time when she was targeted and forced to flee her country. She came to the USA and passed 3 rigorous medical exams to gain her license in Utah. She is a hardworking person, the only woman doctor in her family, and an invested member of her new community here.
Leila has overcome the odds no matter how difficult the challenge. She’s proven herself to be extraordinary among her peers, colleagues, classmates and family. She’s a hard worker who never gives up, staying true to who she is and what she stands for. Leila never passes on an opportunity to serve others.
Ludo moved to Utah as an international student to make a difference. This year she graduated with a degree in Public Relations from UVU. She is a singer, actress, model and activist. With her projects for the community Ludo has continuously, and will for a very long time, increase the level of unity in the community whether it be through support systems, art, music, or public speaking. We are proud to have such power house here at home.
Luma is a hardworking leader who always helps others who need it. She has a degree in computer science from Iraq. She has been rigorously studying English since she got to UT and preparing for college so that she can get another degree here. She recently got a job as a teacher and will continue working and studying while caring for her young children.
Manal is strong, diligent, poised, and kind even under immense stress and hardship. She works hard at everything she does and she is organized and persistent in her goals. This year she has dealt with discrimination and struggles and through it all she has protected and supported her family. She got a job working in a school, and she is pursuing the career and education that align with her dreams.
Mayyada has started working at the hospital working with food. She wants to start taking classes so she can get her certification in phlebotomy. She works so hard every day to care for her son, she is ambitious and driven with a bright outlook for success for her future.
Mwamini is a high school senior trying to make her way into university and is applying for scholarships. She has worked hard as a student, learning English by joining a play, starting her own African American Association at her school, and getting good grades. Her activism and adventurous spirit will always help her succeed.
Nurgul is from Kazakhstan, and a recent graduate of WoW’s Intensive English Class. was always smiling and upbeat in class, very smart, and spent a lot of time on her homework. She was quick to understand and the first to volunteer to help others. She has a bachelor’s degree in Management and Economics and intends to study computer programming, with plans to take online courses next term.
Raziye is ambitious, hardworking, and fearlessly pursues her goals. When she first came in, Raziye was looking for a job using her brand new credentials as a dental hygienist and hoping to make enough money to go to school for her generals and earn a Bachelor’s Degree. She is now working hard both as a dental hygienist and in school full time studying criminology and pre-law, and earning top grades.
Reine completed her CNA courses and is studying for her citizenship exam. She perseveres no matter what challenges come her way. She is smart and fiercely determined to create a good life for herself and her young son.
Sabreen is a hardworking young woman with dreams for herself and her future. She explores her possibilities with energy and intelligence and never gets discouraged. This year she started a job that will be an important stepping stone in her professional development, and which allows her to support herself. She is also starting an important new chapter in her life and starting school in January!
Sarah graduated from WoW’s Intensive English Class! She worked hard each day in class and is using her knowledge to move forward in her career as an engineer. This fall, Sarah went back to school at SLCC, building on her Engineering degree from Iraq. She is working toward starting her own business.
Shahlaa has shown incredible persistence and resilience when things go wrong. She recently got a new job and is working on improving her English so that she can create more opportunities for herself moving forward. She’s compassionate and sticks up for those around her. She is studying hard for the citizenship exam, and utilizing our mentorship program to have someone to help her study and quiz her on topics she finds challenging. Her family loves and respects her, admires her delicious cooking and her fighting spirit.
Sura recently graduated from WoW’s Intensive English Class. Sura has a degree in Electrical Engineering in Iraq, and since coming to Utah, she has been determined to master English. She questioned grammar rules and pushed herself to do beyond what was assigned for homework. Her progress was extremely impressive and will serve her well as she pursues a career as an esthetician.
Zahraa recently graduated from WoW’s Intensive English Class. She is a dedicated student who spent a lot of time outside of the classroom supplementing her learning. As her family continues to grow and looks toward starting a new business, she will continue her studies in business management. She is a quick learner, a community-minded individual, and a great friend to all at Women of the World.