Chatham Literacy

Imagine yourself unable to understand the documents that arrive in your mailbox. Imagine being confused by idioms, because they translate to nonsense in your first language. Or learning to read, for the first time, in your forties or fifties.

Since 2008 as a Chatham Literacy volunteer tutor, Joanne Caye has helped adults learn English, reach the precious goal of citizenship, navigate bureaucracy, and gain self-respect and confidence. Chatham Literacy supplies her with the direction, tools, and support network that have made her an invaluable guide to residents of our County. She recently was deeply touched by the experience of seeing a student receive her citizenship.

“For many adults, learning a new language is a slow process,” Joanne explained. “Suryah Zahmadi has diligently applied herself, but as far as she’s come, she can still be frustrated with her progress.

"That changed this year when Suryah went on Hajj. Thousands of people from all over the globe descend on Mecca and many don’t speak Arabic but do speak English. Hajj officials, however, who oversee an intricate crowd management system that issues Arabic-language tickets, mainly speak only Arabic. As a result, the visitors have no idea what their tickets say or where to go. As Suryah tells it,' There [are] too much doors.' I helped [direct them to the right doors] in English!"

“She was thrilled with her ability to interpret the door numbers from Arabic to English,” Joanne shared. “It was a shot in the arm and it made Hajj that much more meaningful for her.”

For the past two years, Women of Fearrington grants made it possible for Chatham Literacy to enroll 40 women in Learning Upgrade, a self-paced digital learning application that operates like a game. It’s used to complement in-person tutoring or to be used on its own, especially in far-flung parts of the county where tutors are not available.