Unite for Literacy recruits bilingual volunteers to support early literacy around the world. We seek out fluent native speakers of world languages, including English, to translate and narrate our books from English into other mother tongues. In turn, Unite for Literacy offers those book narrations for free to families around the world.
This partnership has many rewards. Because one of my primary roles at Unite for Literacy is developing the above mentioned relationships, I get to meet new people from faraway lands, help them learn to use our narration recording system and then enjoy their contribution to the literacy of children in their cultures.
A few weeks ago, while attending an event to celebrate the hard work of those who ease the transition to the U.S. for Kentucky’s refugee immigrants, participants were entertained by many new Americans sharing their musical and dance talents. In that group, a Kurdish gentleman shared his fascinatingly large hand-drum skills. Never missing an opportunity to expand our library offerings, I approached him after the performance and he agreed to help us add Kurdish to the Unite for Literacy library!
The drummer, Sanaan Hamza, as it turns out, served as an English/Kurdish/Arabic interpreter for the American troops stationed in Iraq prior to his move to Kentucky. He now uses those impressive language talents here in the U.S. and we are delighted to add this multi-talented partner to our group of linguists.
A few days ago, Mr. Hamza shared with me that his family just welcomed a brand new son, whom they named Lolan.
Is this perfect or what? Now, Mr. Hamza is creating Kurdish language books he can read in several languages to his new American citizen child! This little guy will grow up at least bilingual and possibly tri-lingual, singular achievements about which currently few Americans can boast. Research suggests that those capabilities alone will provide a boost to his school and work-life successes.
Sanaan is a young man who is working hard to build a life for his obviously darling family here in the U.S. With new baby Lolan, his life will be all the busier, yet he has committed to taking the time to make a difference, not just for cute Lolan, but for children and others new to literacy in the Kurdish language community around the world.
Meanwhile, Lolan will grow up, fully American with a rich Kurdish heritage, a native speaker of English, who like all of his peers will be positioned to both benefit and contribute to the country he calls home.
When he grows up, he’ll be reading books to his newborn children in at least two languages (because that’s what his parents did for him) and he will speak glowingly about the sacrifices his parents made to move to the United States and provide him the opportunities from which he has benefited.
Perhaps Lolan will learn to play Sanaan’s magnificent hand drum and even take on marrying the traditional Kurdish music he will have grown up with in one ear with modern American music echoing in the other, creating a whole new musical experience for his friends and neighbors.
Whatever he does as he grows, his parents’ decision to contribute literacy to the children of their homeland so far away will be a gift that, like Lolan, will continue to provide joy and opportunity for young families like theirs.