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12 days in common

Posted by sebastianbrown on May 7, 2010

Tsehay and Kiran getting their first Spanish lesson from Kenny

You probably woke up this morning thinking “what the heck’s going on in Nob Hill anyway?” So did I. While the blog posts haven’t kept up, the English class/mutual support has been going strong twice a week for nearly two months now. A couple weeks ago, the group and I thought of doing some more outreach to our neighbors to invite them to participate in our group. To attract more people, we planned a pizza/pupusa party to introduce new comers to the English class as well as our mutual support tool. In addition to some original class members who had dropped off in recent weeks, a couple first timers showed up as well.

What’s been great about the group has also made it difficult to involve people of diverse backgrounds: all the residents are non-English speaking Central Americans. So it was a welcomed surprise to have Kiran from Nepal and Tsehay from Ethiopian show up looking to meet some neighbors. We spent the first hour just eating and talking informally in small groups. Kiran and Tsehay began speaking with each other about how the core theme of the Neighbors Campaign (neighbors helping neighbors through mutual support) was an inextricabble piece of their daily lives back home.

Tsehay explained how in Ethiopia when someone dies the entire surrounding community rallies to the family’s aid. Once they raise enough money amongst themselves to cover all of the burial costs, a large group then stays to comfort the family for 12 days, leaving the 13th morning. Right as Tsehay mentioned this, Kiran lit up and said “no way!” She told us how in Nepal they have the exact same practice of accompanying the family for exactly 12 days! Neither of them had any idea that this was common practice any where outside their own country.

The group links up

The group then practiced mutual support for the last 20 minutes. Luis told the group that one of the contractors at the construction site where he’s working approached him about an idea to start his own construction/building company and asked Luis to hire about 10 people in positions ranging from secretary to site foreman. Dora had the idea of creating a clothes-exchange by putting a table outside the YMCA center one day of the week where people can donate used clothes as well as pick up anything they like.
Probably the most exciting connection was made when Sammy expressed an interest in learning basic computer skills. Tsehay then mentioned that as an office secretary she has extensive experience with computer programs such as Word and Excel. Considering that there are 4 computers in the YMCA, the group worked it out that Tsehay will spend the next Wednesday class teaching anyone who’s interested how to operate basic programs.


And, probably to the surprise of the group, Tsehay and Kiran admitted that part of their reason for coming was in order to learn Spanish because “it’s quickly becoming this country’s second official language.” Too excited to wait for Monday, they got an initial 15 minute lesson from Kenny, who was pleased to have an opportunity to practice his English.

Come by any Monday or Wednesday at 7pm at the Nob Hill YMCA Community Center (9100 Piney Branch) to check out this ESOL/mutual support group in action.


2 Responses to “12 days in common”

  1. Anthony said

    Hello I would like to volunteer for events June 5 2010 I will be in Silver Spring and I would like to Help at the Volunteer Table.

    Please email volunteer Pumpkin

  2. Anthony Hinnant said

    Hello I would like to help out at your event on June 5’2010 in Silver Spring, Md 20910.

    Please email me.
    Thank you

    Anthony (Tony Volunteer Pumpkin) Hinnant

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