WBAY Cares: Literacy Green Bay

We look at the non-profit helping a Ukrainian refugee and others who are learning English to adjust to a new life
Updated: Mar. 7, 2023 at 6:00 PM CST
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Across our community, you’ll find unsung heroes giving of their time, talent and treasures to make Northeast Wisconsin a great place to live. WBAY is excited to begin a new series that will give dedicated volunteers and outstanding organizations the extra recognition they deserve. It’s called WBAY Cares, and it will air on the first Tuesday of every month on Action 2 News at 6:00.

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Imagine moving to a new country and having trouble speaking and writing the native language. It’s a reality for many immigrants settling in Northeast Wisconsin.

A non-profit organization is helping our new neighbors break down language barriers.

Literacy Green Bay started as a grassroots effort more than 40 years ago to help refugees arriving from Southeast Asia learn English.

Since then, the program has expanded to help anyone from any background improve their literacy, including a Ukrainian family who recently fled the war.

“We left when we realized we don’t have anything anymore,” Anzhelika Berdnokova said with a laugh.

Anzhelika, her husband and 8-year-old son were forced to flee Ukraine after she says an air strike partially destroyed their home and both lost their jobs.

“It was very dangerous and emotionally hard to understand that something is going on like had never happened before in your life,” Anzhelika said.

The family found safety in Northeast Wisconsin.

“The story is simple. You want to survive, you’re going to a calm place, and so Green Bay became such a place of peace,” Anzhelika said.

A place where new doors of opportunity are opening thanks to Literacy Green Bay.

“Our mission,” executive director Robyn Hallet said, “is to help adults improve their reading, writing, math, English language, computer and workforce skills so that they can function better as community members and workers.”

Tutor Lori Hochschild, one of 300 volunteers at the nonprofit, meets with Anzhelika for about 4 hours per week.

“Her reading skills and her speaking skills are very, very good,” Hochschild said. “I think the next thing is just honing those writing skills, but she’s very good and has just been an absolute delight.”

“I would like to feel myself more free of this fear, this fear of language, to express myself that I want to express -- not just choosing the words I know to express myself,” Anzhelika expressed.

In addition to one-on-one adult tutoring, Literacy Green Bay also offers English language learner classes and two GED-based programs, including college and career readiness, through a partnership with Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

“That helps them with their job potential. It helps them to be more a part of the community,” Hallet said.

Hothschild offered, “It is very rewarding. I have tutored some of my students to citizenships, so this is something I can do with Anzhelika, which is great.”

It’s a path Anzhelika is grateful to pursue in her new home.

“It’s a beautiful city. Thank you, Green Bay,” she said.

CLICK HERE for the Literacy Green Bay website to learn more about its services, how you can volunteer, and how you can donate to the non-profit.

Do you know someone who deserves some extra recognition?

Send an email to wbaycares@wbay.com. We may just feature them in an upcoming story.