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Learning English with Sister Carol Nolan

Rufina Martinez enjoying learning English from Sister Carol Nolan through Providence in the Desert.

Rufina Martinez enjoying learning English from Sister Carol Nolan through Providence in the Desert.

For 30 years Rufina Martinez lived in the United States and spoke very little English.

Each day was a struggle for the Mexican immigrant.

She worked many of those years as a field laborer in the California heat, so focused on subsisting and caring for her family that she could not even think about learning a new language.

“I was working every day. Too much working, maybe six days a week. And my sons were very little, babies,” she said.

For a while she worked in a factory. For three years she worked in a hospital, where the other people only spoke English. “It’s very, very, very hard for me. A little I speak English. Pillow, pillow case, towel. Only a little English,” she said.

Sister Carol Nolan helps Rufina Martinez learn English.

Sister Carol Nolan helps Rufina Martinez learn English.

Seven years ago, the opportunity to learn English came to Rufina, who is now age 64. She heard about Providence in the Desert at her church.

Providence in the Desert is a ministry of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods located in southern California. Providence in the Desert makes learning the English language accessible and possible for people like Rufina. Teachers come to the students, to isolated trailer parks or to nearby schools, and offer classes at times that work in the students schedules, such as in the evenings. And the price is right. All classes are free, allowing access to those most in need.

The class Rufina attends meets in her own home, a house trailer in Thermal, California. Instructor Sister Carol Nolan, the founder of Providence in the Desert, comes twice a week to lead the class.

Thank you for your time and for making my life easier. Thank you. Thank you.
– Rufina Martinez
Rufina admits she has a ways to go at mastering English. “I try. I try,” she said. How well does she speak English now? “More than before,” she says.

Hard at work, Sister Carol Nolan helps Rufina Martinez improve her English.

Hard at work, Sister Carol Nolan helps Rufina Martinez improve her English.

She says her life is easier because of what she has learned. She can communicate with more people. She uses English in stores and in her daily life.

Rufina says the ministry of Providence in the Desert is very important.

“It’s important because there is many, many people [who need it],” she said.

“Thank you for your time and for making my life easier. Thank you. Thank you,” she says.

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Amy Miranda

Amy Miranda is a Providence Associate of the Sisters of Providence and a staff member in their Mission Advancement office. Amy is a 1998 graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She currently manages the SP publication HOPE and works on marketing support for Providence Associates, new membership and Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

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