This month we are celebrating two very important awareness holidays, Hispanic Heritage Month and International Literacy Day. Both which are very important to the YWCA Northwestern Illinois and our mission to help families and strengthen communities.

Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic culture and history are extremely rich, and the contributions to this country’s own culture have been defining and abundant throughout American history. Contributions from the Hispanic community are essential in areas such as labor, making up a significant percentage of the workforce and representing trillions of dollars in purchasing power. In the military, Hispanics have served for decades, participating in key battles in American history; not to mention the contributions they have made to science, technology and education.

It is important to honor both the achievements and the barriers faced by the Hispanic community as we celebrate and create awareness. One way to join in is educating ourselves on the importance and depth of Hispanic culture. Reading a book or watching a short informational video could help us understand that although Mexico is one of the largest countries in Latin America, it is only one of the 20 countries and 14 independent territories that make up the vast and diverse region. It could help us understand that even though cliché depictions such as a “sombrero” is traditionally used in some rural areas of countries like Mexico and Argentina, it is not the best representation of either country by any means.

Foreign-born Hispanics have always had to go through the assimilation and adaptation process to better function in American society. This may include changes in food, traditions, weather, living situation, and often and most importantly the language we speak. Some of our programs focus on providing materials, resources and guidance to individuals that are new in the country, this area, or are still trying to figure out certain aspects of their new life. It is important to have the tools and skills necessary to become adjusted and self-sufficient and there is often an emphasis on education.

International Literacy Day

Education is the door that opens, discovers, and animates new worlds. According to UNESCO, “This year’s International Literacy Day will be celebrated worldwide under the theme, “Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces” and will be an opportunity to rethink the fundamental importance of literacy learning spaces to build resilience and ensure quality, equitable, and inclusive education for all.”

At the YWCA Literacy Council, we currently are serving adult learners from 42 countries who speak 35 different languages! The YWCA Literacy Council offers free classes: ESL, IT and GED and one-on-one tutoring for adults.  These services help adults to improve vocabulary, reading comprehension, writing and speaking English.  If interested, apply on our website, call the office at 815-963-7323 or stop by. We would love to help you!