Batsiemisa “Prisca” Bikumunu arrived in Tucson in December of 2015 as a refugee from Congo. She left behind her family including a brother and sister. She arrived in Tucson alone. There were no friends or family to welcome her. She did not speak English. Her first language is French but she also speaks Swahili and Lingala.
When asked about how she managed when she came here without knowing the language, Prisca says, “I understand ‘difficult’. Everything here is different than in my country. I needed help.”
In Africa, Prisca worked as a seamstress and a baker. Due to eyesight issues and resulting headaches, her ability to study in Africa was limited. Her doctor in the Congo told her the surgery she needed was not possible there. Within four months of arriving in the United States, Prisca had surgery to correct her eyesight and stop her headaches. She can now see and study without pain.
After her surgery, Prisca didn’t immediately have time to go to school. Her time was spent working. Now school and learning is her main priority. Prisca found courses offered by Literacy Connects and started attending last November.
Prisca is a housekeeper with a local resort. She needs to be able to talk with her boss in case of a problem with a room or if a guest needs something. “At work, if my boss wanted to talk to me he had to call someone else to translate for me.” Prisca adds that the guests at the resort encourage her to speak English. If she tells them, “I don’t speak English,” they reply that she can because she just did.
When asked about taking classes through Literacy Connects, Prisca says of her tutor Robin, “He’s so nice. With him, I progress. I’m so happy to come to school every day. I’m learning. Now, it’s so good.” Prisca has definitely progressed. She became a United States citizen last year. She has passed the official GED test in mathematics and Civics as well as the practice test for Social Studies. She is now working on preparing for her language GED test. Once she passes her GED, Prisca plans to go to college and become a nurse. Maybe. She hasn’t decided on her specialty yet. She is leaving her options open.
What is true today for Prisca is that she is driven, persistent and ambitious. She has the ability to take care of things by herself. She can apply for jobs and promotions, explore career options with confidence, and communicate effectively. She can be independent. Every day she can connect with her new Tucson community. She explains this by saying, “I like to live together with the people.”
“I have the capacity to do anything.”