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Humans of CIANA, Student Edition: Maryam and Jessica

“We didn’t know English so it was hard for us to speak to people. Also, we didn’t have anyone from our family here.” Elementary School Tutoring student Maryam first moved to the United States from Bangladesh along with her parents in 2013 when she was only three years old. In 2014, after just a year of residing in New York, Maryam’s family welcomed her younger sister Jessica in 2014 who went on to CIANA’s after-school program as well.

Maryam, now 11, and Jessica, 7, joined CIANA’s afterschool program a while before the beginning of the pandemic. Their family had known about CIANA for over five years and had utilized a variety of our resources.

Like many other immigrant families, Maryam’s family struggled with their immigration status and learning English, making it difficult for them to find resources, jobs, and make friends. “For me and my sister, CIANA helped us a lot with learning English. They translated for my mom and dad for what they needed. They helped with our green card.”

CIANA and its diverse staff provide a wide range of immigration services in languages such as Spanish, Arabic, Bangla, Hindi, Urdu, and Japanese. Maryam emphasizes the importance of language: “It’s good to know Arabic because when we grow up and if there’s no work, we can work as translators. We learn Arabic at home from our parents. I try to have as much vocabulary as I can have because it will be easier for me to help my parents if I keep on learning Arabic.”

Due to COVID, Maryam (fifth grade) and Jessica (first grade) struggled with inattention, in-person learning, and even online learning. In-person learning was more accessible for Maryam’s family. The family was able to keep in touch with the school and coordinate their schedule with their children’s learning. However, that all changed during the pandemic. “In the beginning we would go two days a week in person, but then because of more cases we switched to online. We spent less time learning.”

Maryam and Jessica both attended our afterschool program in-person and online where Maryam learned multiplication & division, and Jessica learned English Language Arts. In 2019, Maryam and Jessica’s family moved from NYC to Kentucky. Maryam says “CIANA helped us a lot and we have made a lot of friends. And even when we moved from New York we would still talk to our friends there. Also they (CIANA) helped my dad with the citizenship application in New York and helped us after we moved to Kentucky.”

Maryam and Jessica tell CIANA that they enjoyed their time with us and, despite living seven hundred miles away, they hope to stay in touch with friends that they made here.


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