When Poch heard about the opportunity to take classes in English and citizenship through Refugees Helping Refugees, she couldn’t wait to get started. Told that class began at 9 a.m., she made sure her friend picked her up and got her to the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit well beforehand. She took her seat in the classroom and waited. And waited.
Poch had no idea that most of her classmates were relying on city buses to get to school and that they wouldn’t begin to trickle in until about 10 a.m. But Poch didn’t entertain any thought of leaving as she sat alone. She had already waited too long for this chance.
Poch came to the United States more than 30 years ago as a refugee from Cambodia. She settled in Rochester and had help getting a job at a printing company. But Poch had few opportunities to assimilate in her new home country. She rarely ventured beyond the home she shared with another refugee and her workplace. She learned just enough conversational English to get by at work, but she never learned to read or write. When the business that employed her closed its doors, Poch had nowhere else to go. Given a job application form, all she could fill in was her name.
Poch is hoping that the classes she’s taking now will open new doors for her. She’s anxious to learn to read and write in English, and to learn more about the country where she’s spent more than half her life as a stranger.