At 87, her mission to help immigrants has not slowed down


As she grew up, she knew firsthand the burden of being a child of immigrants who did not speak English. Helping her parents interact with the outside world falls on her shoulders.

"I did all the translations for them," said Phillips. "I saw how he struggled to be young in a country and not to know the language."

For most of her life, Phillips worked on various office tasks. Then, in the late 1950s, he recruited to the Peace Corps. He served three excursions – in Kenya, Guatemala and Jamaica – working in community buildings and teaching English.

After returning to the US in 1999, at the age of 69, Phillips realized that there were countless people at her own threshold that needed her support.

"It came to me that I should not have left the US or my homeland to help. I could do here what I did abroad," he said.

He became a volunteer of AmeriCorps and moved to the country, eventually settling in Carson City, Nevada. There, immigrants make up about one in five inhabitants of the state. Phillips met with many adult immigrants who were struggling to learn English.

To meet the need, the ESL In-Home Program of North Nevada, a non-profit institution providing free ESL (English as a Second Language), citizenship, GED, and computer lessons was launched.

Since its inception in 2004, the non-profit organization has helped more than 5,000 migrants and their families.

Today, at the age of 87 – when most people are deeply retired – Phillips does not show any signs of liquidation.

CNN's Laura Klairmont spoke to Phillips about her work. Below is a modified version of their conversation.

CNN: What are the obstacles that prevent immigrants from gaining access to English classes?

Florence Phillips: It was amazing to see how many immigrants were there where they wanted to learn English. I got calls from across Nevada. Many of these migrants could not attend ESL courses because schools and other organizations had a defined program and their times were not convenient for the student who works three jobs. So my program teaches morning, noon, night, weekends, holidays. We provide these services in the hours and days when the student is available and wherever the student is or may be. My program is very flexible.

We teach English to all levels migrants and refugees in North Nevada who want to learn. There is no other program like this in the state. We give students personal attention. I match them with a teacher. We teach at no cost to the student.

There are people who lived in rural provinces and other countries where they did not transport if there was a class available to go. If they do not have the transfer, they just had a baby, they are ill or disabled, we will teach them in their homes or at the teacher's home.

CNN: Your program also provides free lessons to help individuals prepare for the citizenship test.

Phillips: It is a very difficult test. Many Americans say they can not go through. These people need to know the answers to questions about the branches of the government, how many senators there are, etc. There is a lot of history, a lot of politics, a lot for our government. They need to know how to write, how to read. They need to know how to talk in English with the composer. We do all this for them. We have a false interview at the end of the class so they know what to expect when they go to their exams. He needs a commitment to come to a 12-week class. It takes a lot of memorisation.

To apply for citizenship today, it costs more than $ 700. Many of our students do not have the financial ability to apply. So, we help raise money to help these students apply.

Whether they work two, three jobs, they have to sit down and study every day and make this commitment because it's their desire to become Americans. My students inspire me because of their dedication, commitment, motivation to learn.

CNN: How did your work affect your pupil's life?

Phillips: I have students promoted to oversee. I get students to call me and say, "I was able to talk to my teacher about my child." And the students tell me they went to the market and the employee understood them. These are the benefits I have as they progress.

My students love this country. They are very proud to be here, learning English, learning our culture. I see pride when they say, "I am an American."

Do you want to get involved? check it ESL program at home on the North Nevada site and see how to help.

To donate to the ESL In-Home program in North Nevada, click the CrowdRise widget below.