One of the largest hurdles that immigrants face when arriving in a new country is the language barrier, and Let’s Talk Philly has created their Conversation Circles for immigrants to become more comfortable with speaking English.
At Solas 2022, The Welcoming Center is proud to recognize several Philadelphia organizations working tirelessly to address critical issues faced by immigrants and refugees in the Philadelphia region. Through their dedication and hard work, each of these organizations has helped shape Philadelphia into an inviting place to live and grow.
Let’s Talk Philly Core Members (top left to bottom right):
Karen Cervera, Yu-Shan Chou, Jieun Kim, Coral Zayas, Flor Salgado
Let’s Talk Philly was founded in May of 2020 by a group of participants of the Immigrant Leadership Insitute at The Welcoming Center. The Core Team is formed by the two founders, Yu-Shan Chou (Taiwan) and Karen Cervera (Mexico), recently joined by Coral Zayas (Puerto Rico), Flor Salgado (Mexico), and Jieun Kim (South Korea).
Let’s Talk Philly is an organization made of immigrants and refugees from diverse countries and cultures, working together to improve community wellness and overcome barriers to social and economic integration by building language and leadership skills. By encouraging their participants to practice their English in a fun, comfortable, peer-to-peer environment, they foster an environment for sharing cultural understanding and appreciation.
Core member Coral Zayas spoke about this further:
“Let’s Talk Philly has provided me with a safe space to rebuild my identity as a newcomer and nurture the notion of belonging in Philly. Moreover, it has allowed me to feel secure enough to act on my reality and develop an action mindset while supporting my peers on their journey as well. There is power in that, and for that, I will be forever grateful!”
When asked about the choice to address the barrier of language and leadership skills, Karen Cervera answered:
“We felt like language was the key. When you move to a new country and you don’t know the main language there, you cannot really integrate, and you cannot move around. You lose that sense of being yourself and being able to be independent. We felt that language was key for that. So, that’s why we decided to focus on the English language barrier. [In terms of] leadership, we all come [to the United States] with amazing skills from [our home country], and we have these amazing ideas, and we wanted everyone to feel like they could be themselves no matter where they were from and no matter the language they spoke.”
Speaking on the topic of leadership skills, Flor Salgado stated:
“Sometimes people won’t believe in you and sometimes you will doubt yourself, but if you want, you can, because you have the power!”
Let’s Talk Philly is positioned and prepared to grow quickly. Future plans for Let’s Talk include expansions to other cities with their Conversation Circles and other support programs.
When asked about what it means to be a Solas honoree, Yu-Shan Chou stated it was humbling and an honor to receive the opportunity. She continued:
“It means that our efforts are seen, and our voice has been heard, and that represents that so many people are behind us as the immigrant community and that everyone will have the chance to speak out [for themselves].”