Coming to America is a dream that has burned in the minds and hearts of many over the last five centuries – but living in America can be a nightmare, especially if you don’t speak the language. Paul and Jackie Halversen, a Liberty Lake couple who spent a year teaching English in China, know exactly how it feels to be in a part of the world where the language is foreign to you.
So when the opportunity came to serve as facilitators in the Daily Dose English Language program, the Halversens jumped in with all four feet. Called to this Church service mission in February 2013, the Halversens join a team of 45 Daily Dose missionaries serving throughout the Washington, Spokane Mission.
With posters and postcard sized handouts written in Russian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Spanish, and other languages, these Church service missionaries invite those they meet to practice English in a comfortable, relaxed setting. The program was created to train non-English speaking employees in work settings. However, in 2004, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints obtained a license to implement the program in a broader scope.
Volunteers like the Fishers, the Chapins and the Halversens serve throughout the eastern Washington area, teaching community members from all different countries. Daily Dose missionaries spend several hours a week holding “huddles” where students can come and learn how to make a purchase, order a meal, talk to a customer and more.
While the Halversens are new to the team, their innovative approach has produced miracles.
“We’ve made posters in each language, with a tear-off name and phone tags to put in various businesses and locations around town,” Jackie explained. “We’ve also made contact with the president of the Spokane Chinese Association. She translated our information into Chinese and sent it to all her associates.”
Through the Spokane Valley Partners organization, Daily Dose information will be included in the list of local resources at the community food bank and clothing bank on Broadway Avenue.
“Prayer has certainly played a big part as well,” Jackie acknowledged. In last week’s huddle they had seven Chinese students, two Russian students and one Spanish speaking student. She said the level of acceptance and camaraderie was surprisingly comfortable for the first meeting.
“Paul and I said to each other, ‘We’re back home’, feeling much like we did in our service teaching English in China several years ago.”
Ed and Elizabeth Fisher, who live in Greenacres and are nearing the end of their 18-month mission, recently held a graduation ceremony for several of their students. You might marvel that the Fishers, or anyone else, could possibly speak all those languages. The beauty of the Daily Dose program is that no teacher needs to speak a language other than English.
We have thousands of people in Spokane Valley alone that do not speak English,” Ed remarked. “With the Daily Dose program, we don’t have to speak their language – they get to speak ours.”
Because there are no Daily Dose missionaries in the North Stake or the East Stake, Daily Dose missionaries from the Spokane and Spokane Valley stakes travel to those areas to hold huddles as well. Last month, Rich and Cheri Chapin headed off to the North side to teach a huddle. Having served for eight months in the Daily Dose program, the Chapins often find themselves going to their students, many of whom have limited transportation options. They began their service wondering what it was going to be all about.
“You have to have some faith, and be flexible,” Rich said, “but it’s definitely fun for the people who are doing it.”
Rich and his wife just received a new referral to meet with a couple from Africa. A member in the North Stake met the couple at Winco. Having only been in the United States a few months, they were struggling with the weights and quantities listed in pounds and ounces. She helped them with their purchase and invited them to join a Daily Dose class. The Chapins hope to get them started soon.
The lesson time and place is set based on the needs of the students. For example, Emily and her husband come during the evening because they are often busy at their family’s Chinese restaurant in the day. When asked how the Daily Dose program has helped her, Emily explained (in excellent English), “Now we can talk to the people” (at the restaurant). If you’ve ever visited the Golden Dragon Restaurant in Post Falls you may have spoken with Emily or her husband, who both recently graduated from the Daily Dose program.
“We have 48 lessons,” Ed Fisher explained, “with vocabulary for places like the post office, hair salon, or grocery store. We work on pronouncing as well as being able to put the words in a conversation.”
Maria, who completed the classes with her two young sons, expressed her gratitude for the Fishers, saying “With only one lesson a week, I saw a lot of progress. The biggest surprise was when I could understand.”
Maria’s husband also studied the Daily Dose lessons, but for him, morning classes were necessary due to his work schedule. He recently told Ed Fisher how thrilled he was to tell his co-workers a joke he had wanted to be able to say in English for a very long time. “He said to me, ‘I found the word in class and I could finally tell the joke,’” Ed recalled.
For those of us who have never experienced a language barrier, things like telling a joke, finding a restroom, or making a purchase have never seemed like a big victory. However, for someone living in a foreign country, language can be a brick wall or an open door, depending on what you know.
Elizabeth told how many who come to the lessons are very educated people who have left their own country to realize the American Dream. “One gentleman who taught English in his own country brought his children to America for a better life. He works at a local hotel in the laundry, but hopes for his children to master English and get a college education,” she explained. “Another wonderful lady was a pharmacist and owned her own fabric store in her own country.”
In every case, the Daily Dose lessons provide opportunities for individuals to “improve their employment, and their associations with others,” Ed said.
“We try to have a very warm, loving environment for our lessons,” Elizabeth said. As she spoke about her students and their progress, her kindness and compassion were obvious. She recalled one 25-year old student from Vietnam telling them, “You saved my life.”
“This is a very effective program,” Rich Chapin acknowledged. “We do talk about how you say a prayer and what Family Home Evening is and those kinds of things, but it is a smattering here and there.” Rich explained that if anyone is interested in learning more about the LDS Church, they are invited to meet with the full-time missionaries. The Halversens had a student just last week who accepted that invitation.
The Daily Dose missionaries are always looking for new students who would like to participate in the free Daily Dose English lessons. If you know of someone who might benefit from their service, please call Ed and Elizabeth Fisher (509-413-2070), Paul and Jackie Halversen (509-255-9996) or Rich and Cheri Chapin (509-701-1875).
In those stakes that have Daily Dose missionaries, there is generally one couple serving as coordinators and then any number of facilitators who work with them. The 45 Daily Dose missionaries in the Washington Spokane Mission report to Jeff and Becky Earl of Moses Lake who are also Church service missionaries. If you would like to serve as a Daily Dose missionary, contact your bishop or stake president.