Joint Mission Between Refugee and Volunteer Leads to Citizenship

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God blesses women with the gift of friendship and so much more!

Kathy Boyd (left) with Racheal (center) and Kathleen Sanow, another friend of Racheal’s and volunteer at The Hope Center during her citizenship celebration!

“May God bless them.”  Racheal Reech’s words, punctuated by her megawatt smile, reflect her gratitude to the volunteers at BHITC’s The Hope Center (The Center) and its staff who helped her become an American citizen earlier this year.

“It’s not easy to get citizenship,” said Reech, who came here about 10 years ago from the Sudan by way of a refugee camp in Kenya. “But you need to do it to make yourself strong.” The wife and mother of four, ages 10 and under, says she tells other refugees that, difficult as it is, becoming a citizen is worth the effort. “It made me so happy. If I can do it, you can do it.”

She is right.  It was extremely difficult for Reech, who was considered functionally illiterate when BHITC first met her and failed her citizenship test several times.  She could not read, write or even recognize her ABCs for a long time.  She struggled in citizenship classes, but continued on with her mission to fulfill her dream.  That’s when she met Kathy Boyd, a volunteer at The Center and member of Bay Presbyterian Church, whom Reech calls a “gift from God.”  It quickly became Kathy’s personal mission to help Reech achieve her goal of citizenship!

Boyd, a retired accountant with a passion for encouraging literacy in women, was determined to help Reech become an American.  The two starting working together for almost a year to sharpen her English skills and prepare her for the test.  They bonded during Monday and Wednesday classes at The Center and through extra sessions at the Lakewood Public Library or in each other’s homes. Cookie-baking at Boyd’s house became a lesson in fractions needed to follow a recipe. Whenever Reech needed a ride, Boyd picked her up and dropped her off.

For her part, Reech never missed a class. “Racheal has been faithful from the beginning,” said Eileen Wilson, Director of Refugee Ministries. “It has everything to do with how much you want it.”

With four young children and a part-time job, Reech continues to make English lessons with Boyd a priority in her busy life.  Beginning last August, Boyd added homework to Reech’s daily schedule. Every night she wrote 36 English sentences to prepare for the citizenship exam. “She told me she would wake up and her fingers would be writing in the air,” Boyd said, laughing.

It was all worth it in December when Boyd waited outside the testing room and saw Reech finally emerge victorious. The following month, she became an American citizen after the formal oath ceremony. Wilson said Boyd’s dedication was key for Reech: “She changed her life.”

For more information about volunteering at The Hope Center, contact Sharon Schuldt at

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