Ukrainian immigrant Kate Kryvenko has dreams of furthering her education and working at a fulfilling job in her new country.
But a major hurdle she is working to overcome is the language barrier.
"I cannot go to (an) interesting job with my level, and I cannot study in the university or college," said Kryvenko, who arrived in Brandon just nine months ago. "I stay at home and I speak with my parents and friends in my language. I cannot practise English a lot of (the) time."
What has helped her greatly has been attending English classes in Brandon, first with Westman Immigrant Services, which offers Canadian Language Benchmark levels 1 though 4.
Kryvenko is now at Level 5, and attending Assiniboine Community College’s English Language Program, which offers levels 5 through 8.
"This course gives me a chance to practise every day," she said. "I can improve my pronunciation with the teachers."
Kryvenko worked as an accountant in Ukraine, and she is interested in photography.
"I don’t want to work in (a) shop because it’s not interesting for me," she said. "I just want to take some courses in college, and I need English for this."
As reported in The Brandon Sun Wednesday, the English Language Program is facing drastic cuts that would see the number of teachers cut from eight to one. Student capacity will be brought down from 600 to a maximum of 100 students, despite enrolment steadily increasing.
"We are very upset about this situation," Kryvenko said, adding the English courses offered at Brandon University are simply too expensive. "I just want to continue studying."
Another ACC ESL student looking to better his life is Fabio Cruz. He has been working in Brandon at Maple Leaf Foods for the past 12 years.
"I realized I don’t want to keep my life doing the same thing forever," he said. "That’s why I decided to take the classes."
His English speaking has improved over the time he has worked in Brandon, but he said he still needs to work on improving his writing and grammar.
His goal is to become a student in ACC’s power engineering program.
Maritza Uhia, originally from Colombia, has been in Brandon for six years. She credits the ACC English program for helping her secure a new job as an educational assistant with the Brandon School Division.
"ACC opened the door for my life, step by step," she said.
Her English is currently at Level 5, and she would like to complete Level 8 to improve her skills as an EA.
"Sometimes I feel I am not sure I know the … pronunciation, so I need to keep taking my English class," she said.
For Mingyu Cui, improving her English is imperative in order to qualify for good jobs, but also to converse with her own children — two sons, one in Grade 2 and the other in kindergarten.
"They are starting learning English as well, and they come home and ask me some word that they heard … that they didn’t know what it meant, and it’s just hard for me to tell them that I didn’t know either," she said. "I need to learn and teach them, because kids learn things fast … I think in half a year their English will be much better than me."
Cui came to Brandon from China last August. She is nervous to apply for a job, due to her English skills.
"I’m afraid I won’t understand what my leader or boss will ask me to do and not do my job well, if I don’t understand," she said.
ACC’s English program has been a great help, and she is currently at Level 6.
"If the classes get cut, I won’t be able to improve my English, this is the only place I can," she said.
» email@example.com, with files from Erin Debooy
» Twitter: @jillianaustin
THEY SAID IT:
Shock, frustration and anger were some of the feelings expressed by students of Assiniboine Community College’s ESL program on Wednesday.
Here is a look at how the drastic funding cuts will impact them, in their own words:
"Even if I want to go to high school, they ask me for Level 8 benchmark. Without certificate or without any diploma or degrees you can’t do nothing. Life is very hard."
— Asmorom Woldai
"I live in Canada, an English country. All the things I need to use English, for example, go to bank, go to shopping, make a phone call. If my house (needs repair) I need to make phone call. That’s why it’s very, very important. I really, really hope I continue learning English in ACC program."
— Mary Yu
"I’m on maternity (leave) right now. In almost five months, I’ll go back to my job. I’m the morning worker, so there’s no evening class … that’s a big impact for me."
— Eden Wolde
"I just started to continue ESL course because I am planning to study Comprehensive Health Care Aide … but I read in the newspaper today, in order to start in September, I need to complete English Level 7.
"If the government cuts the fund, maybe the class will be changing … it really affects my future life and career."
— HyunJoo Lee
"I felt very sad when I heard this news ... I have a six-year-old boy and I do reading and homework with him every day. If my English can’t continue to improve later, I can’t learn with him."
— Cuiyu Chen
" I went to the Home Depot job fair, and they politely told me if I didn’t have Level 7 I couldn’t (apply). I still am searching for a job ... I totally depend on ESL classes to meet my goals. It’s crucial."
— Hardi Patel