"I was a stranger and you welcomed me." (Matthew 25:35)
Welcoming the Stranger is an educational non-profit that offers free classes in English as a Second Language (ESL), computer skills, and United States citizenship exam preparation to adult immigrants and refugees in the Philadelphia metro region.
Founded in 1999, Welcoming the Stranger has taught over 3,500 students from 100 different countries. Welcoming the Stranger is a fully independent, IRS-approved, 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. Financial support comes from individuals, churches, and local businesses, as well as grants from area foundations, which allows all programs to remain free of charge for students.
Using paid teachers and over 70 volunteers each term, we offer about fifteen classes each trimester. Classes are held both day and evening. Over the past several years, classes have been offered in Bensalem, Doylestown, Hatboro, Harleysville, Langhorne, Levittown, Morrisville, Newtown, Northeast Philadelphia, Southampton, and Warminster. Classes are often located in churches and community centers.
Each year Welcoming the Stranger offers three 12-week terms of classes. Registrations for each term number approximately 300 students. There is no cost to the student for any of the classes. The organization is funded entirely by donations from individuals, churches, and local businesses as well as grants from area foundations.
Three types of classes are offered:
Welcoming the Stranger offers English, citizenship preparation, and computer classes. All of our classes are free to all of our students. Students may enroll in more than one class at a time, such as an English class and a Citizenship Preparation class.
Our computer classes serve mostly older adults who are learning basic computer skills. We help them with basic skills such as how to access email and the internet, to more advanced skills in Microsoft Office Suite using Word, Excel, and other programs.
Classes in English are provided to beginner, intermediate, and advanced students, covering topics such as reading, writing, speaking and listening. Classes meet once or twice a week for 90 minutes. An instructor is aided by several volunteers so that student to teacher ratio is 2:1; and students are given ample opportunity for direct interaction with their instructors. Our English classes are highly personalized and curriculum is adjusted to meet the needs and goals of the current students in the course.
U.S. Citizenship Preparation:
In our Citizenship Preparation classes, students study the questions for the U.S. Naturalization Exam, as well as practice their English skills and practice test questions. We have a better than 99% success rate with students who take the naturalization exam, including more than 90% who pass on their first try.
"Welcoming the Stranger, I can’t thank you enough for all my ESL teachers. I don’t only learn English in the class, but also about American culture, people, and life. ESL class is not just a place to study, but a place where I can talk freely about anything away from home. Because I’m a stay-at-home mom, classes give me the opportunity to speak English with adults and learn more about America. You don’t know how much I enjoy the class. It’s a part of my everyday life. I appreciate all of my teachers giving their precious time to support us." - Chiharu, Japan
"I have now attended this English class for almost two years. I come twice a week. I come to learn English, to see people, to listen to their stories, problems and opinions, and to share with them what has happened to me. Today I feel much more optimistic and self-confident." - Liza, Russia
"I understand that all of my experience and knowledge I cannot apply here. I can't understand other people and I can't explain my needs. One more difficulty is living in a part of America where people have learned to live without using English. In Northeast Philadelphia, where I live, there are Russian markets, medial professionals, dentists, lawyers, everything. This is the reason why people close themselves into their small world. I want to have a full life! Welcoming the Stranger is giving me this opportunity to be free. They help make barriers disappear. " - Marina, Kyrgystan
"Pronunciation, hearing, and speaking are our main English problems in comparison with the vocabulary, grammar, reading, and writing. Learning to use English daily, improving our pronunciation, and becoming familiar with common English expressions are our priority. Fortunately in the “Welcoming the Stranger’s classes”, the hard working native English speakers teach us English, and we can focus on listening and speaking which is our greatest need. The subjects we discuss in the classes are helpful, interesting and amusing, too. We appreciate the kindness and support we receive from Welcoming the Stranger and we wish health and success to them." - Parvin & Mohammad, Iran
"The economy in my country was bad. In my country, we have too many sad people. I wanted to make a better life here in America. This class helps me with writing, grammar, and I also get to meet more people. It's great! You don't feel alone, otherwise, you feel like a stranger." - Nijole, Lithuania
"I was a pilot in Iraq. The Iranian militia killed all the pilots, doctors, and engineers. [After four years living in a refugee camp] the United Nations came to me and resettled me and my family here. It's very good. I understand what to communicate. [Welcoming the Stranger] is a very good teacher." - Zaid, Iraq
Welcoming the Stranger provides free educational opportunities to immigrants and refugees in the United States in response to Jesus' instruction to his disciples that they should always welcome the strangers in their midst (Matt. 25:35). We provide free classes in English, computer skills, and citizenship preparation to adult immigrants and refugees in Lower Bucks County and Northeast Philadelphia. Classes are offered to all students regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin.
Meg Eubank, Executive Director
Meg has worked with Welcoming the Stranger since 2011 in the various roles of Morrisville Coordinator, Board Member, and now Executive Director. A life-long resident of Bucks County, Meg has a broad range of experience working in the field of education with everyone from kindergarten students to adult learners. Meg has worked as a college tutoring center supervisor, a college ESL instructor, a nonprofit coordinator, a professional tutor, a high school English teacher, and a curriculum designer among other roles. She holds a MA Ed in Language Arts Education, a BA in Elementary Education, a minor in English, and an ESL Program Specialist graduate certificate. Meg has presented on ESL topics at educational conferences and has been published in scholarly journals. Meg loves working with students from all over the globe.
Lynn Paff-Connor, Morrisville Coordinator
Lynn has been involved with Welcoming the Stranger since 2011, first as a volunteer and then as Morrisville Coordinator. Lynn has extensive experience working in various roles in education and nonprofits. Her previous roles have included Director of Development at a private academic school, Director of an Early Childhood program, Operations Manager at a cat sanctuary, and Human Resources Manager at Whitman’s Chocolates, among other roles. Lynn has a BA in Religion and Minority Studies, and has been a lifetime resident of Bucks County. It is a privilege and an honor to provide support to new members of our community.