A sign in front of a small house in a gang-ridden area of Redwood City displays the words, "English Classes." No other advertising is needed. Two simply furnished rooms and a converted garage provide space for English, computer, citizenship classes and after-school tutoring. Most days and nights the house is full of neighborhood women and their children.
One student, Esmeralda, first came to class with a nursing baby in tow, a baby with serious medical needs. With five other children at home and a physically abusive husband, Esmeralda needed to learn more than English from the class. In time, despite the financial challenges involved, she was able to extricate herself and her children from the abuse and move forward with her life. "When she shared this good news with the class, everyone applauded," Sr. Mary Pat said. Another night Esmeralda beamed with good news that one of her sons had gotten into an excellent school program that would help ensure a brighter future for him.
"One of our goals is to create an environment where these wonderful women feel safe, respected, and cared about. They're learning English, but also gaining in self-confidence." Sisters Mary Pat and Pat, retired professors of religious studies and history at Notre Dame de Namur University, find the transition from the classroom to this small house and garage an easy one. Education and helping others experience the goodness of God has always been their focus and their passion. They share that passion with many other Sisters of Notre Dame who continue to make educational opportunities available to people in a variety of settings.
Whether in a classroom, a parish center, an outdoor gathering space or a neighborhood house like this one in Redwood City, children and adults are learning what they need to know for life, learning to believe more in their own goodness and in the goodness of a loving God. How fortunate we are to be able to assist in this work!