At an age some might consider too advanced for a new beginning, Irina left her home in western Siberia, without knowing a single word of English, to join her daughter’s family in Utah. Irina quickly enrolled in an English as a second language (ESL) course, and within sixth months had a full-time job in a factory assembly line.

But even as she built financial stability, Irina couldn’t confidently interact in her new culture. She felt powerless—there were medical forms to fill out, housing documents to navigate, groceries to buy, and she was relying heavily on her daughter, who was busy raising four children.

“I tried for seven years to learn it on my own, but language doesn’t work like that,” Irina says. “I can’t buy it; it’s a long, long process. Without English I cannot help myself.”

After completion of the advanced ESL class, Irina was in need of more advanced literacy skills, so her ESL teacher referred her to Project Read. One-on-one tutoring and weekly literacy group instruction fit into her full-time work schedule and offered the individual attention she’d never had in her large ESL classes. “I feel like that one and a half hour with my tutor belongs to just me,” says Irina. “It has elevated my level.”

After a year and a half at Project Read, Irina is first to admit she still has more to learn, but she is finally building her confidence in the English language and the foundation for real independence. She recently became a U.S. citizen, received a promotion at work, and is enjoying the literature of her new country. On top of this, a small but poignant personal triumph came in courageously sharing her story in English in front of over 50 business men and women at recent Corporate Alliance networking luncheon.

Project Read changes lives through literacy by empowering individuals, strengthening families, and building community. Thanks to your contributions, Project Read continues to help adults like Irina improve their reading and writing skills sufficiently to meet personal goals, function well in society, and become more productive citizens.