Envision trying to get a driver's license, education, job or home without knowing how to read or write or having access to any cultural cues; navigating such a chasm is a crippling reality that leaves many well-intentioned people undoubtedly feeling powerless.
“Poverty is man-made, and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings," reasoned South African philanthropist leader Nelson Mandela. One group of dedicated Texan advocates works toward that exact change by designing and implementing a variety of local and global projects informed by United Nations' sustainable development goals.
Duncanville-headquartered International Literacy and Development staffers work alongside local communities, governments and organizations by promoting local language literacy and economic development to empower people who are overlooked in society.
ILAD is an organization driven by the belief that all people--regardless of language, culture or color--should have the opportunity to participate in and contribute to the prosperity of humanity. "Joining hands with people who've been marginalized is our job, and we'll always take the difficult steps toward sustainable change for a better tomorrow," says ILAD Executive Director Brenda Holland.
She says their projects provide local communities with tools in micro-business, agricultural training, literacy and educational development, all while preserving native languages and cultures.
ILAD expert teams live around the world among groups who speak languages most people have never known existed. They teach people the national, written language of their countries, prompting a sense of dignity for individuals and communities as a whole. Brenda says ILAD linguists and computer scientists are partnering with other language specialists and researchers at Dallas International University to create rules, grammar, vocabulary and code to develop human language technology. She dreams about how helpful machine translation would be for expanding into other immigrant and refugee groups in the DFW region, such as the Burmese and Congolese.
"Every person has value and should have the opportunity to flourish. There's so much we exchange and learn from each other. We get to be good neighbors," declares Brenda.
Why Take The Route of Literacy and Development?
Literacy and community development enhance one another to improve disadvantaged communities, assures Bill Kotlan, ILAD board president.
"Language is key to understanding. Well-educated and socially effective adults sometimes forget what it's like to be illiterate. Language learning and teaching provide community understanding that's critical to successful development projects. Effective community development projects provide an incentive for clients to value literacy and education," adds Bill.
He further reminds how frightening it can be for anyone who doesn't understand a predominant language or culture, resulting in anxiety and feeling vulnerable rather than confident and capable.
Fun Way To Support ILAD Progress On May 2
Scott Brady, ILAD development director, says a family-friendly, COVID-conscious, outdoor fundraising event will be held on May 2 at 3 p.m. at the beautiful Oak + Ivy Venue in Aubrey. The event will feature live music, inflatable and carnival games, food truck, beer and wine served from the Bubbles and Brew mini-truck, and opportunities to transform lives through a silent auction and donations.
Scott says donations from this fundraiser will provide opportunities through literacy and economic development. ILAD is a 501(c)(3) exempt organization. Participants can secure event tickets at $10 each on the homepage of ILAD's website.
One local example of ILAD assistance is a group of Rohingya refugees currently living in the Dallas area. Scott says Rohingyan people are a stateless Indo-Aryan ethnic group who predominantly are Muslims sequestered to live in camps in Myanmar since 1962. In 2017, many fled to other countries with approximately 250 relocating to Dallas. "We're helping them with what's called 'trauma-informed literacy," says Scott.
"Most Rohingya have never been to school, so this is a long-term process during which they're first learning that symbols, such as the English alphabet, have meanings. Then we move to concepts and more complicated ideas. The ultimate goal is that they will become fully integrated citizens of our DFW community,” he adds.
He says ILAD even made Rohingya language videos to explain to the group the health risks and protocols associated with COVID-19. "Imagine facing a life-threatening illness as an individual or family when you live in a place that you don't understand the (English) language, why retail locations are closing, and how to protect yourself. ILAD believes information is critical, and we're thankful that we're able to help," explains Scott.
Editor's Note: Frisco Life is media sponsor for this event.