Like many immigrants in Oakland County, Sundus was well educated in her home country. Back in Iraq, she worked as a civil engineer. But the language barrier currently prevents her from pursuing her profession here in the United States.
Sundus first came to the United States to visit relatives in 2014. During her stay, a bomb killed her 20-year-old niece in Iraq. Sundus worried about her safety if she returned home, especially as she is a Christian in a country torn by extremists. She decided to apply for asylum here because her son and other relatives already lived in Michigan. The United States granted her permanent residency.
Referred to Council
Her goal is to find work as an engineer here after she builds up her language skills. A counselor at Oakland Community College referred her to Oakland Literacy Council’s tutoring program after she scored low on entrance exams for the college’s English-as-a-Second-Language classes.
As a child in Iraq, Sundus had learned simple English. However, her university courses were conducted in Arabic. During her early months in the United States, Sundus had to rely on her son and her sister to make appointments for her and accompany her to doctors and stores because she didn’t understand written or spoken English.
No Longer Dependent
That is no longer the case, thanks to her tutoring sessions with Council volunteer Carole Lally. “Now I do everything by myself,” Sundus says.
Sundus has been with her tutor for two years. “She gives me confidence to speak,” Sundus says. “Two years ago, I’m not speaking like this. I’m shy and embarrassed to speak. I’m lucky to find Oakland Literacy.”
Sundus and Carole meet at the local library each week to practice reading, writing, and speaking. Carole gives Sundus homework. “The homework helped me a lot,” Sundus says.
Making a friend
Many of the Council’s one-on-one tutoring relationships blossom into friendships. Sundus calls Carole her “best friend” in the United States. Sundus adds, “I love her a lot because she pushes me forward. She wants me to reach my goal.”
The Council has referred to Sundus to the Michigan Office for New Americans, whose mission is to help grow the state’s economy by attracting skilled immigrants and helping them find jobs.
“If I graduate from Oakland Literacy, then I think I will be able to find a job,” she adds.