January 24, 2006
By MELISSA PIONZIO, Courant Staff Writer
What began as a dream of helping fellow Brazilians has ended in disappointment for Hartford
resident Esther Sanchez-Naek.
In September 2004, the Brazilian native
opened the Shaheen Brazilian Cultural Center at 1915 Park St., where
she and volunteers offered lessons in Portuguese, English and computer
But on Jan. 16, she closed the center,
blaming a lack of money. Sanchez-Naek said she received monetary
support from local churches, but not enough to keep things going.
"The Brazilian community is a
new community here," she said, "They need a lot of help
... but they didn't give me the same response that I was expecting."
About 40 students were enrolled in
English as a Second Language and about 18 in Portuguese. The center
also offered medical services every other Saturday.
"We had a doctor come. He was
a gynecologist and general practitioner, and we had about 20 to
25 people coming every time," she said. "A lot of people
don't have health care."
Sanchez-Naek said she moved to the
United States from Brazil to train for the 1988 Olympics in track
and field. Now 40, she said she wanted to help the community and
opened the center so that people could have a place to socialize
"I was taking the money out of
my pocket to keep the center [open]," she said. "We didn't
have any grants or support."
Windsor resident Richard Kandetzki
said the weekly Portuguese classes he took brought him to the Park
Street area, where he met interesting people and discovered great
places to eat.
Though learning Portuguese is difficult,
he felt he was getting the hang of it, he said.
"I went for my lesson, and
that's when the director said, `We are closed,'" said Kandetzki.
"It was a big surprise to a lot of us."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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