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December 2011 Issue 5

P.O. Box 281
Portland, Maine 04112
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 PESLSF Fall 2011 Scholarship recipients 

Lugina Franchisco

Agnes Niyonizigiye

Clarice Mutesi

Jennifer Lozano

Fidele Bila

Victoria Perez

 Aline Ruganza
When you watch our video, you'll learn how your donation "jumpstarts" the lives of the immigrants who receive a scholarship from PESLSF. Did you also know what a jumpstart immigrants provide to our national economic development? According to The Partnership for a New American Economy " More than 40 percent of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. Even though immigrants have made up only 10.5 percent of the American population on average since 1850, there are 90 immigrant-founded Fortune 500 companies, accounting for 18 percent of the list. When you include the additional 114 companies founded by the children of immigrants, the share of the Fortune 500 list grows to over 40 percent."
Interested in Volunteering?
PESLSF is always looking for people who want to help. There are a variety of positions available and all of them are rewarding on many levels.  
Contact Eleanor Goldberg for more information 
Inspired To Give?
PESLSF typically has more applicants for scholarships than it is able to fund.  Please consider making a contribution now so that we can help more individuals attend a class in grammar, reading, or writing. Thank you for your generosity!




In this newsletter we feature Majid and Nihad whose story will be archived at the Sampson Center for Diversity at USM in our continuing effort to preserve the personal histories of our scholarship recipients. During  this season of light and hope, may you find inspiration in their courage and warmth in your hearts.

Happy Holidays from all of us at PESLSF!  


Majid Majeed and Nihad Jasim

Majid Majeed and Nihad Jasim


On March 22, 2003 here in Maine the temperature reached 55 degrees and many of us were watching for the first signs of spring as daffodils and tulips were beginning to show signs of life. Small, tender green shoots were emerging on the southern sides of our homes.  Crocus flowers in their splendor gave us hope that the back of winter had been broken and warmer days were ahead. On that same day in Basra, Iraq, the temperature was around 86 degrees, pleasantly, sunny and warm. However, Majid Majeed and Nihad Jasim awoke to a very different scene. The US had launched a major air campaign popularly referred to as "shock and awe" against their homeland. US tanks, embedded with journalists filming every detail, blasted into Baghdad at full throttle as we sat in the safety of our living rooms watching in full, living color. Two months later, just outside of Nihad and Majid's city, Basra, the fighting was intense until April 6, 2003 when the city fell to British forces.




Before the war, Nihad and Majid attended primary through high school in Basra. They both received a bachelor degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Basra. "I graduated in 1992 and then I worked at the University as a Research Assistant" says Nihad. Majid worked toward a master's degree in Linguistics but was not able to complete his thesis because he had to leave Iraq. After they graduated, they moved to Libya for five years and were married there. Nihad states, "I worked as an English teacher for elementary and secondary schools." Majid adds, "In Libya, I worked in Adult Education."


They returned to Basra in 2002. Nihad comments, "When the Americans came in, we found a job with them. I worked for them first as an interpreter, then, as an administrator, and then, I became a program manager." She worked for the Research Triangle Institute and later for the British Counsel that distributed funds to the Political Participation Fund and The Civil Society Fund. "I worked as a project manager for the UK Political Participation Fund. We gave grants to NGO's to educate people about the elections and how to participate." She adds, "This was new in Iraq because before we did not have any non governmental organizations. It was a new movement helping them to organize themselves, how to get a place, how to get funds, how to increase their work, and how to connect with others to get donations from companies or agencies that came to Iraq."
Meanwhile, Majid worked with companies that were focused on infrastructure. He states, "I worked in construction projects, water treatment projects, counseling, administration, and personnel departments. These were all the American companies like Bechtel, KBR, and many other American companies." He adds, "I received supervisor training in the UK and Ireland and with the Bechtel Corporation."
Nihad left Iraq on June 24, 2009 with their four children because of the security situation. Majid followed in 2010. Nihad explains, "In 2005, the interpreters or the Iraqis who worked with the foreigners, not just for the Americans, but with the British and the Dutch armies, had been targeted and threatened. A lot of our colleagues were being killed. We ourselves received a letter of threat to quit our work with the Americans or we both would be dead." Majid and Nihad decided to leave Iraq. They applied to the International Immigration Office. While they were waiting to hear, one can imagine the fear of Majid and Nihad as they fled with their four children.  Nahid remembers, "We moved from our house to another house. We moved many times not to let those who threatened us keep track of us, so they would not know where we were. Finally we got approval to come to the Unites States as refugees."
The majority of PESLSF scholarship recipients arrive in the US with little or no English skills. They receive a scholarships from PESLSF to help them overcome the English language barrier that prevents them from being able to find a good job and participate in everyday life. For Majid and Nihad the situation was a little different. They had worked as interpreters in Iraq and their English Language skills were near perfect.
The scholarship grant they received from PESLSF allowed them to attend a Medical Interpreting Class offered through Language Access for New Americans (LANA). They focused on acquiring the medical vocabulary and the code of ethics necessary to work in the medical field of interpreting. The day before this interview, they received their certificates. Majid says, "We felt it made a difference in our vocabulary and our knowledge in the specialty of the medical field." Nihad agrees, "We learned a lot and also the practicing helped. We got to meet with other interpreters who speak other languages like Chinese, Spanish, Russian, Somali, and French. They learned a lot about current practices and the ethics of interpreting. Nihad explains, "We exchanged information about how to deal with special situations. The training was not just about medical terminology, it was also about our performance and things we can and cannot do."
Before coming to the US, Majid and Nihad had a very comfortable life style. They had an excellent education. They both had very good paying and meaningful jobs. Finding employment here has fallen short of their hopes. The qualifications they had in Iraq seem to count for little or nothing here. This has been frustrating for them. Although they found the medical interpreting training helpful, it really provides for just occasional or part-time opportunities. Until she can get something full time, Nihad hopes to work for Maine Medical Center.  She says, "The interpreter training was very helpful. It can be used as a reference and the certificate that shows you completed the training. I want to say thank you. I appreciate your work and giving the scholarship." Majid reinforces that, "Providers are now a beginning to question about the qualifications of the interpreter, what agencies, what qualification you have for interpreting, so this training was very handy for us and we appreciate the grant that was given by your organization. We feel very thankful to you."

Introducing Eleanor Goldberg, President of the Board of PESLSF

Eleanor GoldbergEleanor Goldberg recalls the evening several years ago when she attended a PESLSF board meeting and met several of our scholarship recipients who shared details about their journey to the United States. "I was very moved by their stories." She adds, "I'm filled with admiration for the determination and resilience of these newcomers who have lost almost everything they know, yet are eager to create better lives for themselves and their children." Determined to help Portland's immigrant and refugees get rooted in a new language, Eleanor joined the board of PESLSF shortly after that meeting.

Her interest in Portland's newcomers had previously led Eleanor to volunteer in the classroom at Portland Adult Education where she was hired in 2008 as a reading teacher. "I still teach reading, as well as an ESOL class for Goodwill employees." In addition to her work at PAE and as newly elected President of the PESLSF Board, Eleanor also finds time to volunteer as a tutor for two students, one of whom is studying to become a citizen.

When asked about her interest in PESLSF, Eleanor responds, "What attracted me was the fact that the organization fills a unique niche in helping immigrants and refugees continue their education and professional development." PESLSF is the only organization in the area that offers financial aid to non-native speakers for the advanced language courses needed to pass certification or to succeed in college. "As President," she says, "I'm hoping to continue to build our Board depth and our fund-raising capacity because of the increased demand we're experiencing for scholarships." For every scholarship awarded, three applicants are turned away due to lack of funds.

Eleanor knows how to energize a board meeting. Her enthusiasm, excellent organizational and leadership skills, and imaginative ideas for fund raising projects have enabled PESLSF to award more scholarships. While Eleanor brings a cheerful smile and a good sense of humor to the board meetings, she also knows how to focus on the details while keeping the big picture in view.    

Originally from Chicago, Eleanor has lived in Portland since 1987.  After graduating from the University of Michigan with a BS in Special Education, she lived in Boston for 14 years where she earned an MBA from Northeastern University. There she taught special education and worked in  real estate syndication.  "After moving to Portland," Eleanor relates, "I worked for the Sandy River Group, a company that developed and operated nursing care facilities, and then became the administrator at Sedgewood Commons, a nursing care facility specializing in Alzheimer's care." Eleanor was the Executive Director of the Alzheimer's Association, Maine Chapter from 1996-2006.

When she finds a little free time, Eleanor loves kayaking, hiking, traveling, yoga, gardening and reading. She attends classes to work on her Spanish fluency. She lives with her partner, Malcolm, and their cat, Romeo. She says, "Malcolm and I have become avid birders, which has added a new dimension to our travels! We also spend a lot of time at our camp on Clary Lake in Whitefield." She adds with a smile, "I summitted Mt. Katahdin this past August with a great group of seven other women and am very proud of that."
We're proud of you too, Madam President, and we hope we can keep up with you!


Harold Zagorin, Co-Founder PESLSF

Harold ZagorinHarold Zagorin, co-founder of PESLSF, passed away on November 23, 2011 at the age of 93. In 2000, he launched this organization in order to provide individuals of Portland's refugee and immigrant community with the opportunity to learn English. Our next newsletter will feature an in-depth article on Harold and how his generosity through ESL scholarships has given hope to so many immigrants in the Portland area.


Coming Soon

The next PESLSF newsletter will feature the story of Fidele Bila from the Congo and new board member, Tess Grossi.


2011 PESLSF All rights reserved.