One year into my volunteering life, everything feels right, feels focused, feels balanced. It's taken the best part of this Trumpian year to bring all of the pieces together, and in that time, while still howling at the sky every day, I've come to know myself a bit better, and to find optimism in what I thought would be a very bleak time.
I've tried a few different things, from sorting books for prisoners to assembling STEM kits for Boston Public School kids, and from registering new Americans to vote to organizing baby clothes for low-income moms, but my work has consolidated now around refugees and immigrants, and helping them to learn English. At the International Institute of New England, I tutor students (mostly Haitian, at the moment) in the afternoon, and assist more advanced students (immigrants from at least a dozen different countries) in an ESOL classroom one evening a week. I've been volunteering there for a year.
In October, I finally connected with St. Stephen's Youth Programs, which you might recall I've been trying to work with for many months. Part of the St. Stephen's mission involves supporting the parents of students in their afterschool program. It was a lucky piece of timing that I renewed my efforts to make a match at the same time the parents asked for an English conversation group. While I'd never started or run such a group, I'd done English conversation work at Project Hope, and I really wanted to give this new group a try. I recruited a few friends (thanks, Jane and Chris), and we all agreed to a six-week trial. Each week I provide some guiding topics and questions, and our one-hour sessions fly by.
Now, five weeks in, everyone -- parents and volunteers -- wants to continue. Each week we get to know each other better, and we're all having a great time. The parents have requested some help preparing for parent-teacher conferences at the end of the month, so that's up next on our agenda. Using materials developed for English for New Bostonians by the Boston Public Schools, we'll work on vocabulary and preparing questions for the teachers.