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English in Action to host virtual storytelling event on Sunday

English in Action will hold a virtual "Immigrant Voices" event on Sunday, Oct. 25, at 7 p.m. It's free to watch, but donations are being accepted.
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TUNE IN

What: English in Action’s “Immigrant Voices” storyteling event

Why: Listen to EIA students share personal stories and test their English skills in front of a virtual audience

When: Sunday, Oct. 25, at 7 p.m.

How: A link can be found through http://www.englishinaction.org or on the group’s Facebook page.

Cost: There is no cost to watch, although a $10 donation is suggested through its website. Registration is not required.

Public speaking, especially when the whole world could theoretically be watching, is difficult enough. Now, imagine doing this in your non-native tongue — a language you’re still coming to terms with — and it gets that much more daunting.

That’s the task facing a group of English in Action students Sunday night during its biannual “Immigrant Voices” event, which is going virtual this year.

“It helps us get to know our community members a little bit more,” said Sarah Kelly, English in Action’s program director. “It’s also a place where we can celebrate the accomplishments of our students who worked really hard to improve their English, learn how to develop a story from beginning to end, and then be able to recite the story without using any notes and in front of an audience. That can be really intimidating in your own language, let alone in a second language.”

English in Action is a nonprofit based out of El Jebel that serves immigrants in the Roaring Fork Valley looking to learn English as a second language. Its “Immigrant Voices” event is typically held twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall, and is a test of sorts for the students.

However, it also serves as a platform for the community to connect with some of its immigrant neighbors that it might not have before.

“Doing that through storytelling is one of the most beautiful ways to,” Kelly said of removing stereotypes and assumptions about a person. “We’ve had to put some other things on hold this year because of the restrictions, so we wanted to still bring that cross-cultural experience to the community and now we get to reach more people because people from across the country and across the world can log in and really experience what this is all about.”

It’s been a year since the organization was last able to hold this event, as its scheduled May showing was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s live event, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Sunday, will be a hybrid model, with the speakers all being in the same place at the same time, with a couple of guests also allowed to attend. For the general public, it will be shown virtually on the English in Action website and its Facebook page.

“We are really pivoting to more hybrid models so we can be nimble as things continue to shift with COVID, as we know they will,” Kelly said. “With ‘Immigrant Voices,’ that was just another example of pivoting to still be able to offer the community something that is really valuable.”

As of Thursday night, there were five students set to talk Sunday. The personal stories tend to share common themes of love and loss, and seek to inspire others with tales of overcoming challenges. Among those slated to speak are Arabella Marmolejo, a native of Colombia who now teaches preschool in Basalt, as well as Guatemala’s Elvis Estrada, a young musician in the valley.

The event is curated by Alya Howe, who operates a local nonprofit performing arts organization. She helped the speakers develop their stories.

“The inspiration they invoke in other people, it seems like they always end with some sort of challenge or motivation for people to have a little bit more perspective,” Kelly said of past speakers. “They all have varying levels of English, but one thing they all obviously have in common is going through the process of learning a language as adults, which can be really daunting. Especially when you have a lot of other things going on in your life.”

Registration isn’t required to tune in, nor is there a cost. However, English in Action is suggesting a $10 donation, which can be made through its website, http://www.englishinaction.org.

acolbert@aspentimes.com


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