Volunteering with Refugees

Last Saturday was my first day of volunteering as a Youth ESL Tutor with iACT, or the Interfaith Action of Central Texas, an organization that helps refugees in Austin. I had a wonderful time, and I want to dedicate this post to my experience.

I must admit, as the only high schooler in the group of volunteers, I was a little nervous. However, when I walked into the Galindo Elementary School campus, I was met by the smiling faces of three little girls, beaming and ready to learn. While usually, according to the “Veteran Volunteers”, there can be as many as ten or twelve children, only three showed up that day. Nevertheless, it was a great experience.

We started off the morning with a little conversation game, in which everyone in the group, volunteers and students included, would pick pictures from a stack and try to come up with a little story. After that, we broke up into small groups. I joined a group with Mariam and Sarah, two students at St. Edward’s University, and we helped the youngest girl, a second-grader from Syria, with prepositions. Specifically, we worked on the prepositions “above”, “below” and “in”. While she had some trouble knowing when to use the three terms, we taught her by moving objects around, repeating actions, and acting. In all, our communication ranged from English, Arabic (Mariam is fluent), pantomime, and role-play. It was challenging, but a lot of fun.

My first experience volunteering with the iACT Refugee Program was amazing, and it really made me think about how difficult it is to learn the English language, with all its nuances and specifications. Which is why, it made me so happy to know that I could help someone with this difficult process, even if it meant sitting underneath a table to teach her the meaning of the word “below”.

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