Thursday, October 31, 2013

Learning English key for meatpacking workers

These English classes are held for workers of the poultry plant at a time and location that is convenient for them.    - - Donna Poisl

by Abbie Fentress Swanson, KBIA/Harvest Public Media

Three days a week, First Baptist Church in Noel, Mo., becomes a school for about 100 immigrants and refugees who work at the Tyson poultry plant. English language and citizenship classes are held in four small rooms in a building behind the church. One of the youngest students here, Soe Soe, is an 18-year-old Burmese refugee who debones chicken at the plant from 4:30 PM until 2 or 3 each morning.

“I really don’t like it. I’d like to go to school and learn more English. But I have problems, like nobody working in my house, nobody paying for rent,” he said.

There is no shortage of refugees like Soe Soe in this tiny remote town who probably should be in high school but are instead working at the Tyson poultry plant to support their families. For them, the free English classes being offered at the church are a lifeline. Soe Soe hopes they will give him the English skills he needs to one day leave the plant and become a translator, doctor, nurse or hotel worker.
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