Ms. Wong was a computer graphics designer when she came to Chicago three years ago. She couldn’t find a job using her skills because of her limited English. She was also afraid to wander outside of Chinatown just in case she got lost and couldn’t ask for help to get home. After attending our ESL classes regularly, her English is quickly improving and she is no longer afraid to go out. But she is still hoping to improve her English enough to begin applying for graphic design jobs.
Pui Tak Center’s ESL classes are supported by a state adult education grant. Due to the budget impasse since July, Pui Tak’s ESL classes were facing the real possibility of closing last fall.
In October, The board approved a plan that included fundraising, delaying building use payments to CCUC, cutting back on some of the classes and asking students to pay a registration fee for the first time. After hearing this plan, some ESL teachers volunteered to teach rather than seeing a colleague’s class get cut. Some other full-time staff volunteered to take a pay cut.
During the past five months, we’ve received many generous donations and grants from the McCormick Foundation and Fry Foundation. We were uncertain if we would lose students due to the fee. Nearly all of our students re-enrolled during the November-December class term. Fewer re-enrolled in the January-February term due to the cold weather. While paying the fee (which came to about $1 per class hour) was difficult, students know that learning English is key for their future. We were delighted when some students gave more than we asked for. They told us that we’ve always been here for new immigrants and want us to continue.
In December, the state approved the federal portion of the adult education grant. Our program will receive 40% of what we received a year ago. This funding allows us to offer our classes again for free starting in March. While we wait to see if the remaining funding will come and make plans for an uncertain future, we are grateful for your prayers and support.
I first heard about the Pui Tak Center in 2008 after seeing an announcement in my church’s weekly bulletin. A few years later, I was studying at Moody and was assigned to serve as an ESL tutor. Even though I’m no longer assigned to come, I love tutoring so much that I come three times each week.
As I have some physical challenges, coming so often hasn’t been easy for me. But I keep coming because I see the daily struggles that my students face and I want to help them. My students come from many different backgrounds. Some of them were doctors, engineers and journalists while they were in China. Yet they experienced the same struggles when they arrived in America. Because of their English or a lack of certification, they can no longer work in their fields of expertise. Even simple tasks (for us) such as taking public transportation are huge hurdles for them. In our tutoring sessions, we get to talk about their struggles and I try to help them with those things.
Pui Tak’s ESL classes are filled with so many students. To me, tutoring benefits the students immensely. As I interact with my students, I get to see their daily needs, develop a new friendship and have an opportunity to meet spiritual needs. Most of the students I meet have never heard about Jesus nor seen a Bible before. I get excited from the opportunities of sharing the Gospel with them. And I thank God each day for giving me the strength to be a witness for Him.
Our annual fundraising dinner will be held on Saturday, June 4, 2016. The evening will will highlight families and volunteers whose lives have been changed by the Pui Tak Center. Please keep the dinner event and the ministries of Pui Tak Center in your prayers. For more information regarding the dinner, please contact David Wu at 312-328-1188 x202.