Duarte column: English in Action builds cultural bridges | PostIndependent.com

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Duarte column: English in Action builds cultural bridges


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The first time I met her was like feeling a cool breeze; I was struck by her intelligence, energy, and enigmatic beauty, the same beauty that emanates from those who feel love and respect for mankind.

Her name is Polly Whitcomb, a resident of this valley for several decades. We were matched as participants in the educational and cultural project English in Action. Whitcomb as a tutor and I as a student.

English in Action connects English speakers with people who want to learn English, most of them Spanish speakers.

So, honoring cultural diversity and jumping language barriers seem to be part of the magic of English in Action.

Its way of promoting the process of learning is incredible, because make it as becomes an everyday and natural process.

It is not a boring and traditional method, in fact, is more than that, it uses a strategy where the power of human interaction is conjugated.

Whitcomb and I are part of this conjugation.

We belong to different cultures, generations and idiosyncrasies, however, love to serve of serving our community is what unites us.

Whitcomb is an incredible mentor, not only for her expertise in pedagogy, but also because of her personality and that mixture of intelligence seasoned with a passion for art, which definitely inspires me.

We meet every Thursday for an hour. Each session seems to me as an adventure, we share a delicious herbal tea and some sandwiches.

She opens the doors of her house for me, and if that’s not enough, also the doors of her heart.

One of my favorite meetings was when we both share stories, and read poems of the great Mexican literata Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz; she read in Spanish, I read in English.

More than just a tutor, Whitcomb is a friend, a confidant, a woman who exercises the gift of patience and compassion, especially when I’m confronted with my “tongue disabilities.”

English in Action transforms lives, thanks to the efforts of its excellent teamwork, tutors, students, volunteers, staff and board of directors.

This organization was born as part of a program launched by the Basalt Public Library, called the Adult Literacy Program; and became a fully independent nonprofit organization in 2008.

Thanks for the hard work of Julie Fox-Rubin, a tenacious fighter for social justice, who led the program from its origins in 1994 until 2008.

Regarding the foundation of this project, Fox-Rubin expresses said: “Helping people to build meaningful relationships across and language barriers … learning English is important, but for me the most important part was fostering the relationship between two people, two people who might not otherwise ever get to know each other.”

From 2008, Lara Beaulieu, has been the executive director of English in Action, whose work in coordination with its board of directors, have positioned it, from my personal point of view, as one of the most successful non-profit organizations in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Simply by attending its traditional and main fundraising event, Fiesta de Tamales, you can measure the impact caused by this organization. “Our volunteers are the heart and soul of the cross-cultural community event …”

Beaulieu wrote in her thank you letter to all who participated in this event.

With her remarkable leadership style, Beaulieu facilitates the task of generate and form strong and powerful ties, transforming lives in a community that is strengthened positively.

I cannot thank Joanna Rodden enough, English in Action program manager and match advisor, for her sensitivity and intelligence to assigning me an amazing tutor, and for letting me take part of this great experience.

Thanks to the incredible English in Action teamwork, for reminding us that we live in an environment where cultural diversity embraces us and we must learn to live in community.

My tutor Polly Whitcomb makes me feel accepted, drives me to grow, and helps me to decipher the secrets and wonders of a beautiful language that I have adopted, and that I love to learn.

Eloisa Duarte is an active community volunteer. She has a degree in communications and a passion for education. Reach her at maeloduarte@gmail.com.

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