A dozen primary school-aged children sit around desks taking instruction from their tutors, local college students who volunteer as English language teachers at the Rohingya Culture Center in Chicago. The center’s founder, Nasir Bin Zakaria, 40, watches from a distance, nodding in delight whenever a child gets an answer right.
Zakaria, who works full-time as the director of the center, fought tirelessly to create this space for refugees. Opened in April on the busy and popular South Asian corridor along Devon Avenue near Rogers Park, the single-story, open space, with rooms in the back for more private gatherings, is a sanctuary where these new Chicago residents come to feel at home after escaping hardship in Myanmar. A huge map of Myanmar adorns one wall, and an elevated podium serves as a stage for notable events. White boards hang on one side of the wall, which is where children and adults alike come for lessons.