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Paying it forward: Bagram Airman teaches Afghans English

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

Seventeen years ago a young Kenyan girl and her family embarked on a seven thousand mile journey to America, where they hoped for a better life, future, and the opportunity to succeed.

She did not speak English and had no idea what to expect from the country she would later call home. Despite the struggle to overcome the cultural and language barriers, the little girl now, Staff Sgt. Linette Nosim, persevered.

Currently, Nosim is deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, and helps others learn the language that once was challenged her.

"Everything was new to me, I grew up in a town with no running water," said Nosim, the 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron traffic management office receiving supervisor. "I cried myself to sleep sometimes because it was a lot to take in, but even at a young age I knew I had to learn in order to succeed."

Nosim, moved to America at the age of nine where she quickly learned how to speak English by reading, participating in summer school, and watching television to help hide her accent so other children wouldn't make fun of her.

"The teachers were not patient with me," she said. "I didn't want to hold the class up so I stopped asking questions. I wanted to learn as much as I could. I knew I had to overcome the challenge somehow."

Within a year, Nosim adjusted and made progress at school. She moved schools, made new friends and excelled both in middle and high school.

After graduation she joined the Air Force where she would deploy and experience different countries and their cultures. Nosim, an active volunteer never had the opportunity to teach English until now. The Korean Vocational Training Center here, allows her a chance to dedicate her time to the Afghan community.

Afghan students learn the basics of the English language because of Nosim and other volunteers. She is part of approximately 40 volunteers that dedicate three hours, once a week, to help Afghan students become proficient in the language, and acquire the necessary skills while learning electrician, construction and welding trade skills.

"To be able to help someone with one of the biggest struggles I had to face is very rewarding," Nosim said. "Not only do I get to help them learn English, but we also get to build a relationship with members from the Afghan community."

Although Nosim works 12-hour days, six days a week, she manages to dedicate her time, knowledge and efforts at work and volunteering.

"Staff sergeant Nosim seems very dedicated in everything she does," said Senior Master Sgt. Felica Young, the 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron delta flight superintendent. "She always has the attitude to bring others along. She is on board in teaching others at work and you can also see that in her volunteering efforts.

"Our philosophy is not just to come here and do our job, but make this place better and Nosim has that desire to help," Young said. "She is helping the Afghans do better for themselves and their families."

According to Nosim, giving back to the Afghan people through teaching will benefit them and their families in the long run as education can be the first step to improve quality of life. The Afghan students are able to find jobs on base and interact with the people that are helping them live in a better country.

"Here, we get to see a direct impact," Nosim said. "I am able to work one-on-one with them and experience the appreciation they have for us. The Afghan students have an open mind when we teach and they want to learn all they can from us."

The Afghan students have a set curriculum where the volunteers review textbook lectures and converse with them about culture. Toward the end of the lectures, Nosim speaks to the students about their future goals and about how she too struggled to learn English.

"Communication is important in all relationships," Nosim said. "The first step for these young students is to be able to communicate with us and understand we are here to help them. It is important for us to help break that language barrier and partner with our Afghan community."

Communication is a learned skill and with the help of dedicated volunteers like Nosim, the Afghan students will have the opportunity to learn, build relationships and overcome challenges of learning English.

"It was a good thing Nosim had the resiliency to keep moving forward," Young said. "What more can you ask from her. She did not allow the road blocks to stop her from helping someone else."
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