War on Terrorism

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Face of Defense: Airman Teaches English to Afghans

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Evelyn Chavez
455th Air Expeditionary Wing

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, June 11, 2014 – Seventeen years ago, a Kenyan girl and her family embarked on a 7,000-mile journey to America, where they hoped for a better life, a better future and the opportunity to succeed.

She did not speak English and had no idea what to expect from the country she later would call home. Despite the struggle to overcome the cultural and language barriers, the little girl persevered.

Now deployed here, Air Force Staff Sgt. Linette Nosim helps others learn the language that once challenged her.

"Everything was new to me. I grew up in a town with no running water," said Nosim, the 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron’s traffic management office receiving supervisor. "I cried myself to sleep sometimes, because it was a lot to take in, but even at a young age I knew I had to learn in order to succeed."

Nosim moved to America at the age of 9, and she quickly learned how to speak English by reading, participating in summer school and watching television to help her hide her accent so other children wouldn't make fun of her.

"The teachers were not patient with me," she said. "I didn't want to hold the class up, so I stopped asking questions. I wanted to learn as much as I could. I knew I had to overcome the challenge somehow."

Within a year, Nosim said, she adjusted and made progress at school. She moved through the education system, made new friends, and excelled in middle school and high school.

After graduation, she joined the Air Force, and she experienced different countries and their cultures during deployments. Always an active volunteer, she said, she never had the opportunity to teach English until now. The Korean Vocational Training Center here allows her a chance to dedicate her time to the Afghan community.

Afghan students learn the basics of the English language because of Nosim and other volunteers. She is one of about 40 volunteers who dedicate three hours once a week to help Afghan students become proficient in the language and to learn electrician, construction and welding trade skills.

"To be able to help someone with one of the biggest struggles I had to face is very rewarding," Nosim said. "Not only do I get to help them learn English, but we also get to build a relationship with members from the Afghan community."

Although Nosim works 12-hour days, six days a week, she manages to dedicate her time, knowledge and efforts at work and volunteering.

"Staff Sergeant Nosim seems very dedicated in everything she does," said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Felica Young, the 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron’s Delta Flight superintendent. "She always has the attitude to bring others along. She is on board in teaching others at work, and you can also see that in her volunteering efforts.

"Our philosophy is not just to come here and do our job, but make this place better and Nosim has that desire to help," Young continued. "She is helping the Afghans do better for themselves and their families."

Noting that education can be the first step to improving quality of life, Nosim said her efforts and those of the other volunteers will benefit the Afghans and their families in the long run. The Afghan students are able to find jobs on base and interact with the people who are helping them live in a better country, she added.

"Here, we get to see a direct impact," Nosim said. "I am able to work one on one with them and experience the appreciation they have for us. The Afghan students have an open mind when we teach, and they want to learn all they can from us."

The volunteers review textbook lectures and converse with the Afghan students about culture. Toward the end of the lectures, Nosim said, she speaks to the students about their goals and about how she, too, struggled to learn English.

"Communication is important in all relationships," she said. "The first step for these young students is to be able to communicate with us and understand we are here to help them. It is important for us to help break that language barrier and partner with our Afghan community."

With the help of Nosim and the other volunteers, the Afghan students will have the opportunity to learn, build relationships and overcome challenges of learning English.

Young said Nosim’s resilience is impressive. "What more can you ask from her?” she asked. “She did not allow the roadblocks to stop her from helping someone else."

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