By Betsy Natter
America has long been known as a melting pot of cultures and nationalities and the land of opportunity for those immigrating to the United States. Yet while the past year has been filled with questions and uncertainties for many new to the country, for nearly two decades one local organization has been reaching out to adult immigrants and refugees in the Lower Bucks, Montgomery County and Northeast Philadelphia areas by providing much needed assistance.
Welcoming the Stranger, a non-profit organization based in Langhorne, offers free educational opportunities to individuals seeking to learn English, develop computer skills or prepare for the United States citizenship exam. Classes are taught by both paid teachers and a network of volunteers who work in small groups with students who are developing their English language aptitude and other skills necessary to help them transition into life and work in this country. Three terms of 12-week classes are offered annually and participants have hailed from nearly 100 countries.
Classes are run in various locations throughout the area including Langhorne, Bensalem, Doylestown, Hatboro, Levittown, Morrisville, Southampton, and Warminster. English classes are geared toward meeting the needs of students on all levels from beginners to advanced speakers and the computer courses work on developing skills needed to enhance employment and communication opportunities. The citizenship classes assist students in learning the material for taking the citizenship test and boasts an over 99% successful pass rate.
Welcoming the Stranger was founded in 1999 by the board of Lower Bucks Center for Church and Community (LBCCC) and the Rev. Sturgis Poorman who saw a need to minister to the many immigrants and refugees moving into the area during the 1990’s. The name derives from Jesus’ Biblical admonition to welcome those who are immigrants in the land. The learning opportunities and friendships developed along the way have welcomed thousands to the area and assisted them in their transition into life in this country.
The organization provides classes for approximately 600 students each year at a cost of $600 per student. Students are never charged any fees. All funding is provided by donations from churches, private individuals, grants and foundations. Each fall, an International Dinner featuring cuisine cooked by class participants raises funds to further the program’s financial needs.
Individuals can contribute to Welcoming the Stranger by donating online through their PayPal donation page located here or by mailing a check directly to the organization. Another way to help is by shopping online and using Amazon Smile and iGive. When you select Welcoming the Stranger as your charity, Amazon and iGive will make a contribution to them based on eligible purchases. Also check out the organization’s Wish List on Amazon and provide needed office supplies and materials. Finally, more volunteers are always welcome; interested individuals can contact Executive Director Meg Eubanks by email at [email protected].
For more information on Welcoming the Stranger or class registration info visit their website.