Immigrant Who Helps Immigrants Wins Essay Contest

DCLC Press Release
July 1, 2022

“I became an immigrant at the age of 40,” explains Melis May Sagay in her winning “People Helping People” essay. She adds, “Many people like me are not ready to become immigrants. That’s why I decided to help them.”

Student with award
DCLC student Melis May Sagay of Drexel Hill won $200 in Sun East Federal Credit Union’s “People Helping People” essay contest.

Melis created an informal network of friends and social media contacts to offer advice and household goods to newly arriving immigrants. As an English as a Second Language (ESL) student at Delaware County Literacy Council, Melis had the opportunity to write about her efforts in an essay for the “People Helping People” contest, sponsored by Sun East Federal Credit Union.

The “People Helping People” contest asks students to write about volunteering and its impact on their life. Sun East Federal Credit Union provides a generous $200 prize to the writer of the winning essay.

In her essay, Melis describes her goal of helping new immigrants “transition from country to country.” Because immigrants often arrive with only a few suitcases, they may need many household items to begin their new life. Providing child car seats, child beds, toys, and clothes can smooth their path. Melis knew she had limited resources to help on her own, so she thought that others might want to be involved. “I was not in a position to help more than one person by myself. But I had a good circle of friends and organizational skills. I encouraged my friends to help.”

Melis’s immigrant network was born. She makes sure that all donated items are in good condition. “There have been some who donated unacceptably old items. Most of the immigrants receiving help were educated, respected in their country, and none of them were poor. They were just immigrants,” states Melis.

One person who hailed from Melis’s home country of Turkey needed help finding housing in the Philadelphia area during the pandemic. Melis wrote to the person and provided advice about locating an apartment, even meeting with the person to show them around.

Describing the impact of helping others, Melis puts it this way, “If the toy I give to an immigrant child makes him happy, if an immigrant woman cooks in the pot I gave her family, then I have achieved my goal. Sharing goodness will save the world.”

Delaware County Literacy Council (DCLC) provides free literacy services to local adults, including online and in-person classes in basic literacy, ESL, and GED preparation. To learn more or to get involved, visit www.delcoliteracy.org.