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Gregoire's Story

Gregoire Butera

"My country was in trouble, so I decided it was best for me to come here," explains Gregoire Butera, as if the move from his home country of Rwanda to the United States was that easy. After a little more explanation though, the circumstances under which he came to this country become more evident.

It was 2002 when Butera finally decided it was unsafe for his family to remain in Rwanda. Because it was not possible to obtain visas for him, his wife and their four children, Gregoire decided that he must go ahead on his own and get things started for his family in the United States. After arriving in Manchester, New Hampshire in December of that year, Gregoire stayed with a friend for a couple weeks until moving to Portland to begin a new life.

Immediately he found out how difficult life was in a new country without knowing the language. "At the beginning everything was hard because this country was totally different from Rwanda," says Butera. "To learn a new language, a new culture, a new lifestyle, it is not easy. It takes some sacrifices and time." The greatest sacrifice of all, of course, was coping with these difficulties without having his family by his side for support. It wasn't until April of 2004 that he was able to secure travel for them to the United States.

After his family arrived, it seemed like things began to fall into place. In 2005 he received a scholarship from Portland English as a Second Language Scholarship fund and began studying ESL at the University of Southern Maine. It was a necessary step before he could continue on to study in the Nursing program as he had hoped. "There's no way to do ESL and another program, you have to learn English first,", explains Gregoire. Later that year after the scholarship, he also landed work at Granite Bay Care in Portland, a job that he holds to this day.

Gregoire's wife also learned to speak and write English through Portland's Adult Education courses and has since begun attending classes at SMCC. She also landed a job working in the WIC program at PROP based out of Portland. "She is motivated to increase her English because of her job, and because everything here is run in English," says Gregoire.

The Butera family seems to have settled in comfortably to their new life in America, a fact which Gregoire attributes to learning the English language. He is grateful for being given a chance through the scholarship. "ESL classes were a key for my life here in this country," he says. "Everything I can do and everything I will do is because of ESL."