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24/02/2017 - 18:00hs

Refugees to teach language classes to children

The NGO Atados is offering courses for kids aged 8 to 12. Ali Jeratlia, a Syrian who settled in São Paulo nearly three years ago, will teach Arabic to the boys and girls.

São Paulo – Refugees will teach Arabic, Spanish, French and English classes to children aged 8 to 12 at the facilities of NGO Atados, in west side São Paulo. The first student group is nearly complete, and lessons are due to begin on March 6, right after the Carnival season.

Ilana Goldsmid

Project Abraço Cultural offers language lessons for children

Dubbed Abracinho Cultural (Portuguese for ‘Little Cultural Embrace’), the project is a new stage in the NGO’s Abraço Cultural project, which has been in place for a year and a half now, and has already branched out into Rio de Janeiro. Coordinator Mariângela Garbelini explains that refugees were having a very hard time joining the labor market, plus they had a strong language-teaching potential. Abraço Cultural came up as a means to solve hardship through opportunity.

“The first classes began in July 2015. At first we were hoping to have four groups, but ended up with twelve,” says Garbelini.

The project’s units in São Paulo and Rio have seen over 1,000 adult students. At one point, Abraço Cultural had trained 60 refugees from over a dozen countries to teach, and half of them are still with the project. “Another 30 of them have other jobs now,” she explains.

The idea of including children, once again, came up as an opportunity. One of the NGO’s teachers, Ali Jeratlia, of Syria, relates that many fathers and mothers will marry Brazilians and have kids, but cannot pass on their native language to their offspring.

Jeratlia will be the kids’ Arabic teacher – there are other Syrians teaching both Arabic and English to adult students. “Teaching kids is easier, they pick things up faster,” he says.

Ilana Goldsmid

Ali Jeratlia of Syria is one of the teachers

He taught himself Portuguese very quick. Jeratlia arrived in Brazil in 2014, drawn in by the FIFA World Cup. “Ever since 2002, when Brazil won the Cup with a team featuring Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo, I dreamt of living in the country. I used to work in the hotel industry when war broke out in Syria, and so I decided to follow my dream: I spent six months living in Turkey and then I got the visa for Brazil,” he recalls.

Upon arriving, not knowing anyone and with no job in sight, he struggled before beginning to teach English. He would study the local language on flyers, menus and street signs. “I’d write the words down and practice. I studied Portuguese very hard.”

As fate would have it, Jeratlia landed a gig working as an interpreter for FIFA during no less than the World Cup. He proudly tells that he watched all of the matches in São Paulo, while translating Arabic and English. That’s where he met a few volunteers involved with NGOs, and that led him to Abraço Cultural.

“I’m doing fine. I enjoy teaching my language and conveying a bit of my country’s culture to people. There’s a widespread misconception about Syria, not only in Brazil, but all over the world, and one of my missions is to help change that,” he explains.

Mariângela notes that the classes for kids are also intended to “Pass on those values, a little bit of culture, tolerance, and respect to the new generation,” she says.

Classes begin on Monday, March 6. There will be two groups each for Arabic, Spanish, French, and English, for 8-10 and 11-12 year olds. Prices range from BRL 720 to BRL 900.

Quick facts

Abracinho Cultural – language lessons for kids
Classes for 8-10 year-olds and for 11-12 year-olds
Price: BRL 720 to BRL 900, in up to 4 installments
Address: Rua Teçaindá, 81 – Pinheiros – São Paulo (near Fradique Coutinho Metro Station)
Find out more: www.abracocultural.com.br

*Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum

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