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Martha Deng's Story

Martha Deng

When Martha Deng arrived in Maine in 2001, she did not know a single word of English. She was unable to verbalize how unhappy she was with the housing situation that she and her family had to endure. When she was able to leave the home, she could not read street signs, or bus route indicators, or even the names of products in the grocery store. When she was at home, she would not even dare to answer the telephone! Now all of that has changed.

Martha says, "It took me about three or four years to become comfortable with the English language." Martha, the mother of seven children, speaks English extremely well, and when they are all talking as a family, she and her husband are the only ones who do not sound like native speakers. Martha quips that when she speaks Nuer, the language of her native country, Sudan, her children answer her in English!

Although Martha had to spend two years in Egypt awaiting emigration, she is very happy to have been placed in Portland, Maine. She finds the people welcoming and friendly; she likes the ease with which she can travel from place to place; she appreciates the education and social services available to her family; and she enjoys the size of the city and its quiet atmosphere.

Martha worked as a nurse in a children's hospital in her home country of Sudan, and she longs to be able to return to that profession. She began studying English immediately upon her arrival in Maine. After attending many classes at Portland Adult Education, she was able to begin courses at USM in their ESOL Program. Martha has received three scholarships from PESLSF. This is the maximum allowed any one individual. These three scholarships enabled her to perfect her use of the English language. She hopes soon to be eligible to enroll in a nursing program, which is both her major goal and fervent dream. Martha admits, "I would not have been able to take these English courses without the scholarship money." She has encouraged her friends to apply for a scholarship, and she is very grateful to all who have made the assimilation into her new country a very positive one.