Share this article

print logo

Refugee learns to read, write English to better his life

Mohamed Abdulla, 35, a refugee from Eritrea who became a U.S. citizen this fall, is learning to read, write and speak English through Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara.

New immigrants, especially resettled refugees who may have had limited schooling before coming to the United States, are among those struggling with literacy.

Abdulla, whose native language is Saho, is from a small village in Eritrea where he worked in agriculture. He said he went to school through the eighth grade there.

He arrived in Buffalo in June 2012 and lives here with his wife and two daughters.

Right now, he works as a cook at a Burger King. But someday Abdulla said he’d like to have a job that pays better.

“If you don’t know English, it’s very difficult to find a job,” he said.

Everyday tasks are difficult, too. If he gets mail, he has to ask a friend to translate it for him.

“Speaking, reading and writing is hard for me,” Abdulla said. “If I learn English, maybe everything will be easier.”

Abdulla has been working with his tutor, Amy Moritz, for over a year now.

“She is helping me with everything,” he said, just after one of their weekly two-hour sessions on a recent Friday at the Central Library in downtown Buffalo. “She helped me with citizen test.”

For some job seekers, reading and math classes must come first