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March 2012 Issue 6 

P.O. Box 281
Portland, Maine 04112
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PESLSF SPRING 2012 Scholarship Recipients  

Uwase Mutumwinka

Nathalie Romero

Nida Ibrahim El Hag

Hameid Altaee

James Kana
Republic of South Sudan

Natalia Nigmanova

Lugina Franchisco

Agnes Niyonizigiye

 Did you know that Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants or children of immigrants employ more than 10 million people worldwide and that immigrant-founded Fortune 500 companies alone employ more than 3.6 million people, a figure equivalent to the entire population of Connecticut? Read more at The Partnership for a New American Economy.
Inspired To Give?

PESLSF typically has more applicants for scholarships than it is able to fund.  Please consider giving a contribution now so that we can help more individuals attend a class in grammar, reading, or writing. Thank you for your generosity!


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 



"In the beginning it was hard to just talk to an American person, to say what I really wanted to say. I had to use an interpreter. I was nervous. I didn't know their culture, their reaction, their language. The airport was so big. I didn't know if I should go left or right. Americans were helpful, but the hard thing was the language."     

 -Scholarship recipient 2011 


The quote captures the heart of the PESLSF mission. Through your generosity to the annual appeal, PESLSF awarded eight spring semester scholarships to help advance the English language skills of individuals from Rwanda,  Argentina, Eritrea, Iraq, Republic of South Sudan, Bashkortostan, and Burundi. 


Thank you for helping them with the "hard thing".   


Fidele Bila
Fidele BilaIn 2009, over 9.1 million individuals qualified to enter the Green Card Lottery, formally known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery Program.  From that pool of entries, 55,000 Green Cards were issued to people from countries spanning the globe.  PESLSF's scholarship recipient, Fidele Bila, was one of the lucky winners selected at random. Fidele suggests, "It was a plan from God to come here."
Fidele, his wife, Vicky Tshiama, and four children came to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was born in Montpelier, France in 1963, where his father was attending college to become a doctor. When he was four years old, the family moved back to West Congo. Later, he attended college in the Congo where he earned a Bachelor of Political Science and Public Administration from the University of Lubumbashi. For a brief time, before coming to the United States, Fidele comments, "I was the mayor in Matadi, a big city in the DR of Congo." Located on the left bank of the Congo River, the city is the principal seaport of the DRC and boasts a mile-long waterfront cut in granite.
The war in the eastern part of the Congo has been raging for more than a decade. Many of PESLSF's scholarship recipients fled this country because their lives were threatened. Fidele's journey was different. He did not come to the United States for security reasons but rather for opportunities. Years of conflict and war in the Congo have destroyed the country's economy. Fidele points out, "There is no stability. Jobs don't pay well."  According to Fidele, "From Africa, the United States is like paradise. It is a dream to come to the United States. Here you can study. There are many opportunities here. I was lucky to win the lottery. I like Maine because it is a quiet place and it is good for children. It is a good place to be integrated into American society."
Fidele's blessings did not end with the lottery. When he arrived in Portland, he had no idea that he was about to meet someone special. Rachel Mutombo, his half-sister, whom he had never met, arrived in Portland thirteen years ago. By chance, she was visiting another family when she noticed the name on the mailbox was also her father's name, Fidele Bila. Fidele comments, "I couldn't imagine to come here and meet my sister over here. I never met my sister before. She has been here for 13 years." (To see a video of this reunion, click here)
Fidele's scholarship allowed him to attend a class at the ESOL Program at USM. He states, "I study grammar at USM. I like my teacher. My goal is to go to the university and continue to study. I want to study criminal justice, business administration or health care management." He is fluent in French, Swahili, Lingala, and Kikongo, the language of Congo. Now Fidele faces the challenge of learning English. When he is not attending classes or studying, he works in production at Barber Foods. He says," It's a good place, but I have a bachelor's degree. I want to study. I have to get a diploma again here so I can get a good job." Fidele finds people in Maine to be helpful and friendly. He adds, "I am very happy to get this scholarship because it helps me to study English. I want to speak English very fluently."

Harold Zagorin had a zest for life and a commitment to help others that continue to be an inspiration to everyone involved with PESLSF.  As a spry octogenarian, Harold founded the organization in 2000 with his friend, Beverly Stern.  Until his health declined, he regularly attended PESLSF board meetings.  He remained connected to PESLSF activities and applauded the organization's continued work in granting scholarships to immigrants and refugees.

Born in Chicago on June 12, 1918, to immigrant parents, Harold learned early about hard work and the importance of education.   At UCLA, he earned a double degree in meteorology and chemistry, which ultimately led him to work as a chemical engineer with North American Rockwell in Southern California and in Maine.

Harold retired to Maine 30 years ago, but retirement for him did not mean inactivity.  He was active in local government, the Maine Jewish community, and civic organizations.  Through his work with the Portland community, he realized that there were many in the immigrant and refugee population, newcomers to Maine, who needed to learn English to continue their educations, seek employment, or advance their careers.  By establishing and initially funding the Portland English as a Second Language Scholarship Fund, he has enabled hundreds of scholarship recipients to gain the English language skills necessary for success.  

Harold is survived by all those who benefited from his vision and generosity and by his brother, Bernard Zagorin.  He was predeceased by his wife, Shoshana, and his brothers, William and Alan Zagorin.

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