Constant Kabuyenge began teaching English in our English Language + Literacy program in the fall of 2016 after leaving Burundi for Portland. Constant admits that fleeing his country was a terrible experience. Leaving his family, business, properties, and his whole life was emotionally devastating, and Constant was depressed. To complicate things further, he quickly learned what so many immigrants to the U.S. discover: neither his diplomas nor work experience were recognized as he began the search for employment. Despite having a strong education and background in law, Constant found himself eligible only for low-paying, entry level positions.
He soon heard about LearningWorks’ English Language + Literacy program and began volunteering as an assistant English teacher and then lead English teacher working with other new Mainers. He saw how courageously students were fighting to learn English without complaining about their similar fates, and says: “It inspired me.”
When asked what he loves about our EL+LP program, Constant noted that “most English programs in Portland are based on “book-learning” and homework for basic and intermediate students while speaking exercises and opportunities are offered only to more advanced learners. The English program at LearningWorks is more than that, since giving students a way to practice their speech in every class, which is more efficient for a fast integration. This way of teaching has helped many students to hit the ground running when they got their work authorizations.”
He went on to say, “LearningWorks has not only offered an integration opportunity to immigrants and non-English speakers, but it has also given a space of capacity-building and self-esteem recovery to asylum seekers who had knowledge, language and will to serve their communities.
The determination and dedication of the students, the commitment of the teaching staff and the desire of the leadership to help students improve their lives better ignited in me the will to stand up, to accept my present situation and to move on. LearningWorks trusted my competence as a foreign trained person. I regained my self-esteem and self-confidence. I fought, took necessary trainings, passed required certificates, and am now working as a Qualified Medical Interpreter and as a Coach of other Medical Interpreters at Maine Medical Center.”
Constant continues to look to the future with strength and hope. He plans to go back to school for a law degree, pass the bar exam, and return to the field he loved and left behind in Burundi. Volunteers like Constant are the heart and soul of LearningWorks, and we could not offer our free community services without them. We are grateful for his time here and cheering him on as our friend, neighbor, and colleague as he continues to pursue his goals.