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  March 2013

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In This Issue
Literacy is Key
From Refugee to Technology
The Heroine's Journey
Quick Links
Literacy is Key to Empowerment
graffiti on fire box
Graffiti scrawled on a firebox in New York City.
Cristina Igoa knows first hand the fear and isolation of being an immigrant. Born in the Philippines, she was a refugee in Colombia before immigrating to the U.S. as a child. Her book, The Inner World of the Immigrant Child, is an outgrowth of her own experience as well as of her work as a teacher of immigrants and refugees. 
Presenter Cristina Igoa is a renowned teacher and faculty member at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California.

"Educating and empowering girls and women is not just a compassionate issue. It's not just a social justice issue. It is a pivotal issue for securing peace and international stability as the human family moves forward in the 21st century."

-- Sister Jean Stoner, SNDdeN Representative to the United Nations
A Voice and a Choice
This book by presenter Cristina Igoa served as the starting point for the Sisters'  U.N. informational session.
Since 2001, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have been a non-governmental organization (NGO) at the United Nations. This month, the Sisters sponsored an informational session as part of the 57th annual U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. "Moving the Immigrant Girl from Violence of Cultural Uprooting to Empowerment of Creative Expression," drew an overflow crowd. As educators working in 17 countries on five continents, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur provide a voice and a choice to marginalized people around the world.
"I can't imagine how my parents kept us alive."
Zarmina Kochi, a guest speaker at the Sisters' U.N. information session.
Zarmina Kochi (right), was born in an Afghan village during the USSR-Afghan war before fleeing with her family to a refugee camp in Pakistan. "My older sisters were harassed and threatened by grown men as they walked to school in Pakistan," said Zarmina. "My father was determined to get us out of there. He was also determined that his nine daughters would receive an education." Zarmina and her family immigrated to the U.S. when she was still a young child. With no education and struggling to learn basic English, she began school in the U.S. in the fourth grade. It wasn't until she walked into Cristina Igoa's accelerated literacy class two years later that she realized her love of learning. Zarmina now holds a degree in physics and works for an information technology company in northern California.
The Heroine's Journey
All the guest speakers at the Sisters' U.N. session, including Cristina Igoa (far left) and Zarmina Kochi (second from left) spoke to the issues of the "heroine's journey." Psychiatrist Jean Shinoda Bolen (far right) defined it as a journey undertaken without choice. Such scenarios include: slavery, prostitution, arranged child marriages, or being denied an education or uprooted and expected to learn a new language and culture. Karen Cadiero-Kaplan, Director of the English Learner Support Division of the California Department of Education (second from right), highlighted the power of literacy in overcoming isolation and stagnation. Rosario Campos (middle), a 12-year-old immigrant from Mexico, spoke about the triumph of learning a new language and the excitement of being at a crossroads. "I can't decide if I want to become a cancer researcher or a lawyer when I grow up," she said.