Literacy – One Family’s Journey

“The program helped me understand many things; my new country, the culture and the language, and it helped my babies be prepared for school…we’re doing so well because we took this program.”

Imagine living thousands of miles from your family and friends, with only a handful of people in your life to support and comfort you.  Imagine the feeling of having your independence taken away because you couldn’t do daily tasks like shopping or taking transportation, without fear of getting lost or confused. That is exactly what Ha Nguyen felt when she came to Canada in 14 years ago.

Despite living in a community with her relatives, Ha experienced many of the trials that immigrants face when settling in a new country. However, she was determined not to let communication be a barrier in her new life…and she was certain it was not going to be a barrier for her children.

Ha was determined that her children would have the best possible start in life and she knew that meant a high level of education. “I wanted my babies to be smart and to do well in school,” she explained. “I wanted them to learn computers and do well in Canada.”

What she did not know is where to start, especially as a new immigrant.  She began asking around the community about educational programs that could help her children get an early start. And while her children were her number one motivation, Ha had another motive; she was determined to learn as much as she could while her babies were learning.

Ha was especially interested in technology and computers; being 7000 miles away from Vietnam the internet was often her best and only option to stay connected to loved ones. Fortunately for Ha, a close friend introduced her to the PALS in Immigrant Communities program (IPALS).

The program helps immigrant families support their preschool and kindergarten-aged children’s early literacy development, through interactions in English and their first language. It is derived from the original PALS program, which Decoda is currently expanding in communities throughout B.C.

Ha was excited about the opportunity and was one of the first people to sign up. “I was happy because I knew IPALS could help my children and I knew it would help me, too.” Both of Ha’s children went through the program and Ha was there every step of the way.

“They liked the play time and they liked meeting new kids.” And for Ha, it was more than she could have imagined. “It helped me understand many things; my new country, the culture and the language, it helped me understand computers and it made me closer with my babies.”

If you were to talk to the lively and outspoken mother of two today, you would never know she experienced any of the obstacles new immigrants encounter. And you would certainly never know it if you met her children Sivutha and Thach. They are well spoken, polite, happy and well-adjusted and according to mom, “doing very well in school.”

Ha and her family have come a long way since her brother sponsored her to come here 14 years ago. She attributes their success to family, friends and the support she received though the community literacy program IPALS. “I feel bad for those people who come here and don’t know about this program…it is so helpful, I want everyone to know about it.”

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