Meet Alicia and Dingna

Alicia: My name is Alicia Garay.


Digna: My name is Digna Reyes.


Alicia: My sister (Dingna) and I are from El Salvador. My language is Spanish. In El Salvador, it’s all Spanish. I had no English. My first time studying English is here. It’s very important. I needed spelling in English. I can talk. You can understand me, but it’s not perfect. My son speaks English. I’ve been in Arkansas for 20 years and the United States for 30 years. Before Arkansas, we lived in Dallas, Texas for 10 years. It’s better in Arkansas for learning English. I was coming here with no English. I was working in Wal-Mart in Fayetteville, and it’s a lot of English. I got to talk to somebody and practice every day. In Dallas. Where I was working, when I talked to people, it was Spanish everything. 


I left El Salvador, because it was difficult. It’s difficult for the economy. There was too much violence. Too many bombs. Too many guns. Everything was a problem. Every day somebody else died. My kids were little. My daughter was nine years old, my son was eight years old, and my little one was three. Little kids. Then an opportunity came to come here with my brother.


The story for my brother is difficult, too. In 1988 we came here to the United States. One year later, my brother died. My brother had one kid in El Salvador, a little kid just six months. Now he’s 28. My nephew is a big boy. He’s my brother’s only kid. For three years, my heart was broken. I was in the United States, but my daughter, my second daughter, and my son stayed in El Salvador. After three years, they could come here, and I picked them up. In America you stay. There’s opportunity. Right now it’s okay, because my family is here. Everybody is here.


The story for my sister (Dingna) is difficult. My mama was watching my sister in El Salvador. Since my sister was little, she’s had problems learning. She has problems with her memory. Then, my mama got sick. Every year she got more sick. She got skinny. When my mama died, nobody else could watch my sister in El Salvador. They only wanted to watch her for pay. Mama died on February 1, 2018. My son talked to the lawyers to help my sister come to the United States. One year ago, she (Dingna) could come here. Nobody told me my sister was coming. Then, somebody called me to tell me she could finally come. And I said, “Yay, my sister!”


We have been taking classes in OLC for 3 months. It’s very good. I’m practicing English. (My English) is better right now. I like it because of the teachers and every person is so nice. Me and my sister are coming here every day instead of being stuck in my house. I came to OLC for my English practice and for helping my sister. I needed help for reading, spelling and the sounds. My English is better now. Every day it’s better, little by little. Every day the sounds and the reading are easier.


Dingna: I feel good coming to school. I want to learn to read. I am learning a lot. I am learning, little by little, the colors and the letters. I listen to the teacher and practice reading.


Alicia: (Learning English) is important because the spelling in English is different than talking in English. The vowels sound different and change. In Spanish the vowel sounds don’t change. It’s important. I am a little bit better right now (at English).


We like coming here (to OLC). In different schools it’s not as helpful as here, and I love the teachers. I talk to everybody.  I have made a lot of friends. Good people. I like seeing everybody. Everyone in the school is beautiful.

Patty Sullivan