Hope Acts and the YMCA of Southern Maine collaborate to offer in-person English language classes together for the first time



Hope Acts’ English education programming for New Mainers has now resumed in-person sessions for the first time since the onset of the pandemic. Those classes are taking place at the Portland branch of the YMCA of Southern Maine, which is located right around the corner from Hope House.  In-person class sizes have been capped to maintain social distancing, and the area where they will be held is spacious. The YMCA is making plans to restart child care services for parents who attend class. In addition to in-person language classes, Hope Acts will continue to offer virtual English classes for those who prefer this option.

“We’re thrilled to have this opportunity to collaborate with the YMCA to continue to provide this important service to New Mainers in our community,” said Hope Acts Executive Director Martha Stein. “The New American Welcome Center Initiative [of the YMCA of Southern Maine] aligns perfectly with Hope Acts’ vision to create a welcoming community for New Mainers. Our buildings are just a few doors down the street from each other, so it makes sense for us to build this intercultural hub in Portland’s Parkside neighborhood together.”

Linda Carleton, a volunteer teacher with Hope Acts, is excited that in-person classes have resumed. “In-person instruction is important for all sorts of learning reasons: to give students more opportunity to practice speaking and writing English, to allow real dialogue to take place, to work with pronunciation and diagnose where students are having difficulty, and to ascertain students’ progress. But more than any of this, in-person classes allow us to connect with our students, to honor their vulnerability and courage in trying to learn a new language, and to support them through the process.”

Nearly 250 students ages 18 to 69 have enrolled in Hope Acts’ remote classes since the start of the pandemic, with 120 currently participating. English students come from 26 different countries and speak 33 different languages and dialects. In addition to offering English classes, and operating the Asylum Seeker Assistance Program (ASAP), the Portland-based nonprofit operates Hope House, the only residential program for adult asylum seekers in Maine, which houses 13 single adults at a time.

Helen L. Breña, President and CEO of the YMCA of Southern Maine, is delighted by the new partnership with Hope Acts.“Our commitment to welcoming New Mainers is deep. In addition to providing space, and recruiting volunteers, we provide YMCA memberships to individuals living at Hope House so that they have a welcoming place to meet their well-being goals within a larger community of support. We are so thankful to work with Hope Acts, which shares a similar vision and commitment to this incredibly important work.“