Volunteer to join immigrant students’ quest for citizenship
Originally published September 20, 2011
By Nicholas C. Stern
For Pamela Munjal, helping out her fellow Asian immigrants, and others in the community in need who have limited English skills, is about contributing to her hometown.
Munjal, 48, has been volunteering as a translator and a tutor, offering free instruction in math and English skills to area students for the past 10 years. She has helped people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar, and has translated for local hospitals and other vital services.
She also volunteered with the Indian Association of Frederick, which promotes Indian culture in the community. Through its various events, she met Elizabeth Chung, executive director of LIFE and Discovery, a Frederick-based nonprofit that focuses on education, translation and health care needs. The organization is in the process of changing its name to the Asian-American Center of Frederick.
Munjal said she respected Chung’s efforts in the Asian community and beyond.
“I wanted to pitch in and help out,” she said.
Last week, Munjal began work as a volunteer with AmeriCorps to help out at the Asian-American Center.
She will be organizing a series of citizenship classes at the nonprofit, as well as conducting outreach for its events, such as the fourth annual Asian-American Health Fair slated for 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 22 at Frederick Community College.
Born in Mumbai, India, and raised in New Delhi, Munjal grew up speaking English at home. Her maternal grandfather was from Ireland. She studied English literature in college.
She moved with her two children, Briyanka, 17, and Rahul, 24, to New York City in 1999 to join her husband, Ajay.
A few months later, her husband landed a job at the now-defunct Bombay Grill in downtown Frederick and they moved to the area.
Though accustomed to the bustling life of a large city, Munjal said she grew to love Frederick’s small, quiet community.
“I feel part of the community,” she said.
After five years of living with a green card, Munjal said she, too, is now ready to become a U.S. citizen.
When her citizenship classes start late next month, she’ll be following in the footsteps of her students, as she helps them manage the process and teaches English to those who need lessons.
“I’m ready to become a citizen,” she said.