Blue Ridge Literacy program remains a safe space amid ongoing immigration policies

ROANOKE, Va. – Evelyne Nzikobanyanka has called Roanoke home for several years now after being forced from her homeland of Burundi.

“Actually, I didn't come here for a better life, the war took my country,” said Nzikobanyanka . 

When she first arrived, she could not speak English and struggled until she found the Blue Ridge Literacy program and Stephanie Holladay. 

“We think it’s very important that people know that they can come to us learn English and ask questions, and if they aren't sure about something that’s happening in the news or elsewhere,” said Nzikobanyanka. 

One topic that Holladay said her students at BRL are paying attention to is the heated discussion on immigration policies in our government.

“There are certain people are apprehensive and unsure about what's happening. And there is also another group of immigrants and refugees who are motivated to become more involve so there voices can be heard,” Holladay said.

They are trying to remain positive, but Nzikobanyanka feels hopeless. 

“It is what it is. We wish we could change it and do something about it but we can’t,” said Nzikobanyanka.

The mother of two said it took her 13 years after fleeing her country until she arrived here and she is grateful for one less hardship, understanding her new community. 

“I have talked to the people who have been coming here. (Its) the people who doesn't know how to read doesn't know how to speak English. But I can tell you now, they do better and some have gotten better jobs from learning the English through BRL,” Nzikobanyanka said.