Thirteen years ago, Marie Claire arrived in Minnesota after fleeing the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo as a refugee. Separated from her daughter by the war, she suffered the death of both her husband and mother, and finally, the loss of her home and community.
Although she spoke 6 languages, English presented an immediate challenge. “When I come here, my first month, I go to work and when someone smiled and said hi, I would turn away because I didn’t know how to answer.”
Knowing very few people, Marie Claire walked into Neighborhood House seeking classes to improve her limited English, and quickly became immersed in the supportive classroom community. She excelled in English and was so popular among her fellow students in GED class that they elected her class president! Marie Claire mastered these classes quickly and began taking civics classes and studying for the citizenship test, which she passed in 2012.
Marie Claire has big dreams. English classes were just the beginning of her journey toward an independent and meaningful life in Minnesota. Since successfully completing her English courses, she has taken computer classes to improve her digital literacy and is studying for the GED exam at Neighborhood House with plans to attend college to become a social worker.
Despite her busy class schedule, Marie Claire spends her mornings in Neighborhood House’s Discovery Room serving as a foster grandparent to young children while their parents attend GED or ELL classes. Throughout her life, Marie Claire has found meaning in supporting others and loves being able to give back to her community by helping other families achieve the success that she has found at Neighborhood House. “My life is a gift God gave to me to help people.”
By: Anders Ringdahl-Mayland