Volunteering with Refugee Students
This month’s JFCS Refugee & Immigrant Services Volunteer Spotlight features Amy! Amy has been volunteering with the After School Club for over a year, helping refugee kids with their homework and other activities. She first learned about the After School Club when her church contacted JFCS about ways they could support refugees and new arrivals through donations and awareness. Amy wanted to get more involved and decided that the After School Club offered a good opportunity for her to do that.
After the first two weeks, Amy fell in love with the kids and began to slowly learn about how refugee students struggle within American school systems when they first arrive. “It was eye-opening to see how difficult it is for them. …The more people they have giving them encouragement, the more they will build self-esteem. My goal is to give them the best chance available,” she explained.
Amy loves being able to watch the students grow over the year in academics, English language, and character. “In addition to homework, we also help with a lot of character skills–sharing, having manners, making friends, being truthful, having integrity, speaking kindness,” Amy said. “The kids started the year not really talking or interacting much with each other, but after a few months, they were doing homework together and making friends!”
Learning from the Students
Many of the students have made an impact on her, especially one student in particular who was really struggling with school and making friends. “One day, he was sitting on the sidelines at the soccer field and I just went and talked with him about how he felt and why he felt that way,” she remembered. “Eventually, after talking, he got a big smile and gave me a high five. Now, when I see him, I make sure to stop what I’m doing and say, ‘So good to see you! I miss having you around!’ The difference After School Club has made on him is like night and day!”
Amy strives to intentionally make a difference in the kids’ lives. She’s motivated largely by her faith and also by the courage of the students who are adjusting to completely new lives in the US. “Many of the students don’t know how to have hopes and dreams. I love to sit and talk with them one-on-one just to get them to dream! ‘Would you want to be an astronaut, work with plants? What do you want to do?’” Amy asks. She also likes to talk with the students about their cultures and home countries. “It gives me a better understanding. It’s not just me looking at the world through my American eyes,” she explained.
Amy says volunteering with kids allows her to simplify things and be a little bit more real. “As with any type of volunteering, you feel good about what you did at the end of the day!” she shared. “I’m learning a lot. Kids will teach you lots of things!”
Interested in volunteering with After School Club? Fill out an application here.