By Vidya Pradhan
It is an immigrant’s tale as old as time. Rukhsana( not her real name) was brought to the US from her native South Asian country on a fiancée visa. Once she was married, her in-laws found many excuses not to proceed with her green card application. This ensured that the lonely and helpless girl would submit to other, typical, patterns of abuse – emotional, verbal and physical – without recourse. With her spirit all but extinguished, Rukhsana made a last ditch attempt to escape. While being taken out of the state, she evaded her captors and asked a stranger for help. She was taken to the police station, where she had her first piece of luck since coming to the land of the free, a meeting with a Narika representative. Help and support soon followed. When the volunteers at Narika discovered that Rukhsana, while not fluent in English, had been well educated back home in her native tongue, they encouraged her to participate in their SEED program. A 12-week program for women, the aim of SEED is provide participants with the basic tools they need to navigate a new land with a new language. English as a Second Language is a core focus, as are personal financial management tools, basic computer skills, and career development skills, such as resume writing, job search, and interview preparedness. Keeping in mind the environment most of the women have escaped from, the SEED program also offers soft skills training, such as self-esteem building, overcoming fears, and creative problem solving. Information sessions on issues of importance to participants such as women's health, domestic violence, immigrant rights, and worker's rights are part of every module. Free childcare is also provided on the premises. Rukhsana took the course almost 4 years ago but to her those 12 weeks mark not only the most rewarding time of her life but also a new beginning. “I did really well in those courses,” she reminisces with enthusiasm in her voice, “I would often help the other students. They would borrow my notes and I would give tuitions. I also encouraged other women friends to join the program and the car going to class would always be packed.” SEED may have taught Rukhsana to pick up the threads of her life and weave them into a self-sustaining tapestry, but the confidence and self-esteem the program gave her are priceless. Today she holds a steady job and has even found the courage to attempt matrimony again – despite her terrible experiences. I asked her if sometimes she was overwhelmed by her experiences and her memories. “Why should I be?” she answered simply. “I have Narika.” The new SEED session starts September 22, 2007. If you know of someone who could benefit from the program, please call NARIKA at (510) 444-6027 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Pre-registration is required. Classes are held at the Fremont Adult School at 4700, Calaveras Blvd. in Fremont.