ESOL Students Develop A Friendship To Transcend All Barriers


Coming to a new country is a feat in and of itself. Learning a new language and culture would rattle anyone but coupled with having to figure out public transportation to English class—a very tall order, indeed. To alleviate some of these feelings, Catholic Charities tries to pair students who live in the same area and speak the same language to help new arrivals navigate the bus routes.


In September of 2019, Alaa Al Zaraa arrived from Iraq speaking Arabic with only her adult niece and no other family. She settled into an apartment complex that is in an especially difficult location to access the city bus. Without someone to show the newcomer the way, they are almost certain to get very, very lost.

At the time, the only available pairing for her was Julita Walengamina who arrived from the Democratic Republic of Congo three years ago and who speaks Swahili. Throughout her time in the ESOL program, Julita has become somewhat of a matriarch for her class. As such, she accepted the challenge of guiding Alaa to and from classes despite the language barrier.


Julita truly rose to the occasion taking her new responsibility very seriously so much so she accompanied Alaa for several weeks until she gained her confidence in traveling via bus independently. Through this odd pairing, the two have become great friends despite their language and cultural differences exemplifying that friendship can transcend all barriers.


Are you interested in becoming a volunteer to help our ESOL students like Julita and Alaa? Give the gift of your time and talents to further our vitally important mission. From special events, accounting, data management, information technology, clerical, reception, food service, fundraising and more, we have many opportunities. Our volunteer hours are Mon-Fri, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Email our Development Specialist, Cheryl Estevez cestevez@ccbjax.org to learn how.

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40 E. Adams St., Suite 320
Jacksonville, FL 32202

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