Pui Tak is nestled in the old part of Chicago’s Chinatown. Inside the distinctively Chinese architecture children and adult voices intermingle in various dialects. Since 1915, this organization has served new Chinese and other Mandarin-speaking immigrants here in America. The transition for them is often difficult.

On Saturday mornings, Pui Tak offers one-on-one tutoring classes for adults. Their age ranges from as young as thirty to upwards of fifty. Wendy Yong, a new student, will be taking the TOEFL early next year in hopes of enrolling into East North College. She left her home of 40 years in China’s Hulan province to move to America. She has no family members here except for her daughter. 

Like most immigrants, Wendy looks towards the future and maintains high hopes for her children, “I hope my daughter can achieve her own dreams in the United States and become an independent, confident person.”

A Volunteer’s Perspective

Annikka Bouwsma, a volunteer at Pui Tak, says she learned many valuable things from working here.

“I have seen in many of my students humility about their own lives and dedication to their children.”

She elaborates, “Many immigrants held more prestigious jobs before moving to the States and now–largely due to limited English–are working in the back of restaurants, clothing factories, and other similar settings.”

Annikka herself is from Michigan, but spent four years of her childhood in China, “I was already familiar with Chinese culture and had experienced a taste of being an outsider.” Her personal experience spurred her interest in helping Chinese immigrants transition easier in the States.

Asian to Asian American

Asian immigrants are now one of the most successful demographics here in America, and considered “the highest-income, best-educated, and fastest-growing racial group in the United States.”

While transitioning is difficult, Asian immigrants’ work ethic and diligence are now increasingly valuable to America. Annikka says that the students at Pui Tak are “exhausted from working long hours but still come to class every day and participate.”

People like Wendy and her daughter hope to achieve success here that was not available abroad. Wendy says that her daughter’s dream is “to become an animation designer,” while her own is to develop a LED display business in the US.

Walter Russell Mead writes in The Wall Street Journal that “The world’s best, the world’s hardest-working and the world’s most ambitious are still coming our way.”

Pui Tak exists to help capable immigrants accomplish as much as they can here and, in turn, America–one syllable at a time.