Neighborhood Opportunity Network

Supporting one another in a time of crisis

How do you say cheer in Spanish?

Posted by sebastianbrown on February 18, 2010

In preparation for our very first ESOL class scheduled for this Tuesday, the core group/planning committee met last night in Juventina’s apartment to debrief from our kick-off party as well as hash out details for the upcoming week. To start off, we went around the circle catching the others up on how we were affected by the snowy craziness of last week. Melvis explained how the storm was both good and bad for him. Bad because with any snow on the other ground his construction crew doesn’t work. Good because he’s found a new gig driving snow plows which have obviously been seeing quite the demand recently. The week-long school cancellation meant no work for Rosario who is a cashier at the Chick Fil-A at the University of MD Cafeteria.

Juventina also had mixed feelings about the snow. Visibly tired and totally worn out, she explained that in the last two weeks she has worked over 150 hours because the Chevy Chase Super market where she works was busier than ever. While she welcomes the additional money and knows that if she doesn’t commit to working the extra hours her boss will find someone else instead to replace her, she is so tired at the end of the day that she was nearly falling asleep during the meeting.  By far the most energetic member of the group, her uncharacteristic fatigue was unsettling for the rest of us.

Marina told us that even though getting to and from her factory job in Baltimore has been taking an average of 3 hours, she hadn’t missed a day of work in the last two weeks. But forced to leave her apartment as early as 5am, you can only imagine how worn out she must be by the end of the week.

Stretched thin by long days of work and taking care of their children these remarkable people still had the drive and energy to pull off a wonderful planning session last night. Here’s the ambitious weekly schedule the group came up with:

Tuesday–>6:30-7pm: Core group meets to plan week’s agenda; 7-8:30pm: ESOL class

Wednesday–>7:00-8pm: Mutual support/discussion of community concerns; 8-9pm: English practice with English speaking partners

Thursday–>7:00-8:30pm: ESOL class

Obviously, this is a lot. But the group is committed to making it happen. They decided that the five of them would rotate being responsible for making the weekly calls to the class members, as well as organizing food and childcare and facilitating the Wednesday night sessions. One of them is also going to work with me and Michael Avant from the YMCA to see if one of them can get permission to hold on to the key to the YMCA center.

Gretchen and I made it clear that now that they are so well organized we will quickly begin phasing down our level of involvement, beginning with leaving the ESOL classes solely up to our volunteer teachers (from our network!) as well as alternating in attending the Wednesday night sessions.

To end the great night on a high note I brought the group together for a huddle and cheer. Without knowing either of those words it kinda fell apart, but the basic idea came across when together well shouted “Seguimos adelante” (Let’s continue forward)!

Then, as we were on our way out the door, Marina asked Juventina if she knew of anyone who could watch after her daughter for the upcoming week for cheap/free. Juventina immediately had Marina call her next door neighbor who happily agreed to take care of Marina’s daughter for however long she needs! For however small it might seem, it’s just another example of the power of community.

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