Literacy Council of Buncombe County: Claudia Camacho


By Lily Contorer


Workbooks lying open on the table, spelling rules covering a white board, and vocabulary words adorning small note cards indicated serious work in this classroom. Yet, I was initially drawn in by laughter bursting through the doors. A typical session between Claudia Camacho and her Literacy Council volunteer tutor Linda Van Tuyl was in process. Seated on their yellow-cushioned chairs and reading an article that seemed to be high school level, they greeted me with smiles.


Claudia Camacho

Claudia Camacho

Claudia was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia, where Raul Ramirez, her husband, worked for the government. When political opponents threatened his life, the Colombian government suggested that he and Claudia flee to the United States. After Raul obtained political asylum, they settled in Asheville.


Everyday skills were difficult in a new country where they did not speak the language. Claudia struggled to read street signs, housing rental agreements, and job applications but, without language skills, she had trouble assimilating and finding employment. Her warm spirit and strong desire to succeed helped her through tough times.
Claudia wanted to speak, read, and write English to become an American citizen. She believed that individual attention with a tutor would help achieve her goal. Studying with Linda—trained for many hours before she was matched to a student—proved her correct.


Tutor training sessions, taught by the Literacy Council’s program director, provide materials for tutoring sessions. Linda and Claudia decided to also study real life documents. Claudia says, “… tutors helped us in personal areas that needed the most attention. In my case, Linda helped me feel more comfortable and secure speaking English.” Other tutors help students read menus from local restaurants, interpret bus schedules, comprehend medication warnings, and practice reading books to read to their children at home.


Claudia began studying with the reading level of a second grade student. She now reads English so well that she passed her exam to become an American citizen. Claudia says, “Of course, study at the Literacy Council gave me the academic tools for a feeling of security for the interview with the immigration officer. That was what worried me most … Fortunately, to my surprise, the interview was pretty easy. That was one of the happiest days of my life …”


Daily activities have become easier for Claudia. She enjoys reading magazines in English, proudly compares food labels, and feels comfortable asking store employees important questions. “For example,” I ask, ‘Do you have another size?’ or ‘Do you have these pants in other colors?’ I feel more American when I can speak English with other people and they understand me.”


Claudia says, “Above all, I thank all the people who work directly or indirectly as teachers, counselors, and volunteers. Of course, I thank those people who … support people like me, to achieve our dreams in a new country. Thank you very much to all.”


The Literacy Council of Buncombe County teaches adults and children basic reading, writing, math, and English language skills through individual and small group instruction by trained volunteers. Students gain self-confidence and develop self-sufficiency to transform their lives as individuals, parents, workers, and citizens. The Literacy Council, a non-profit organization accredited by ProLiteracy America and serving the community since 1987, provides highly individualized tutoring to fit the needs of over 300 students in three core programs – Adult Education, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and the Augustine Project. This profile of student, Claudia Camacho, is the first in a series of inspiring stories about those whose lives The Literacy Council has improved.



The Literacy Council of Buncombe County, a non-profit organization, provides reading, writing, spelling, and English-language tutoring, at no cost to adults, teens, and children, through three core programs: Adult Education, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), and the Augustine Project.


To learn more about becoming a student or a volunteer tutor with the Literacy Council of Buncombe County, please visit or email Lily Contorer at You may also call Lily at 828-254-3442 x202 to learn more.

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker