LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Louisville nonprofit recently discovered a great need within the community it serves, and since launched a new program to meet it.

The Gambian Louisville Association (GLA) is a nonprofit group focused on providing support to people who've immigrated from the West African Country, with about 60 registered members currently.

But the group, through a survey, discovered a big barrier - most members can't read or write.

"Most people with my community, they all speak English so, to me, everybody was lettered. So when we did the survey I was kind of shocked," said Secretary General Abdoulie Drammeh.

Women in particular reported struggles with illiteracy. Drammeh says in some areas of Gambia, women don't always have an opportunity to go to school.

"We've always believed that if women are unlettered, that means our children are going to suffer for it because they are the first teacher of our kids," said Drammeh. 

That is why GLA launched an adult literacy program. Classes are held twice a week, with students learning the basics of reading and writing English.

"When my kid comes home from school, they give me the paper, I don't know what the paper say because I don't know how to read English," said Jai Ceesay. "That's why I come to this class." 

Ceesay is one the ten students selected for the first run of the program, which is set to last two months. 

"The teacher is very good, the last Sunday I come here I learn a little bit," Ceesay said. "I'm happy for the teacher, I'm happy for the people, I'm so happy." 

Programs like this are something Program Officer Ceesay Chendou says the association has always wanted to do.

"Education is like one of the keys - without it you can't open no doors," Chendou said.

They see this as the first of three phases for the program, planning to expand it to serve all members in need of literacy classes.

The group is currently looking for a bigger space to accommodate bigger classes. They currently hold the program at "Les Petites Academies" off Bardstown Road.

"We're trying to give them the full life, the full dream that they have when they are in Africa coming to the Unites States, be part of the United States," said Chendou. "Because this is where they live and we want them to be a part of the community." 

"We understand that the government can't do everything, so that's why we assemble ourselves within our community and we try to prioritize issues that are facing our community and see how best we can create a solution," Drammeh said. "And this is one of them." 

The association expects by the end of phase three it will have 50% of its members able to read and write - with hopes of having that number up to 90% by 2025.

Drammeh says anyone can join GLA, members do not have to be Gambian of African. 

The adult literacy program is currently funded through member fees, but the nonprofit does accept donations.

People can contact GLA or learn more on its website

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