Tsultrim Dolma created an oral history with the help of Dan Georgakas, a volunteer with our ESL Center. The Greenfield Recorder published her work on June 10, 2016 under the title My Turn: Giving a voice to the voiceless in the Tibetan struggle for freedom. Read it here.
When Tashi arrived in the US, as a Tibetan refugee, she had no English skills, no formal education, and no work history outside of the home. Brought by a relative to the Jones Library ESL Center, she expressed some doubt about whether a middle-aged woman without literacy skills would be able to learn enough English to succeed in this country. She was paired with a volunteer tutor, a retired teacher, who began teaching her basic literacy and oral conversation skills. After several months, to her delight, Tashi was able to secure her first job, working in an agricultural lab at UMass Amherst. Eventually, as her English skills improved, she was able to switch to a higher-paying job at the University, and this enabled the family to secure a mortgage on their first home in the US.
When she had been in the US for four years, Tashi began working with a tutor to prepare for her citizenship interview. For 12 months, they worked intensively on US history & government facts, personal background questions, and dictation skills for the citizenship test. In the spring of 2015, Tashi passed the test on her first try, and was able to take the Oath of Allegiance along with her (far more educated) sons and daughter. She continues to study basic literacy and conversation skills with her tutor so that she may be less reliant on translation in her interactions at work and in the community.