Every Saturday this summer, I spend a couple hours tutoring Ukrainian and Russian refugees, helping them acquire new English language skills. I work with the advanced students as I don’t know any Ukrainian or Russian.
Tutoring, for my part, consists of refining pronunciation, introducing new vocabulary words, explaining American idiom and slang, explaining American culture and behavior, and facilitating as much as possible the transition of our refugees from the terrors of total war and genocide into a safe and peaceful American society.
We are a total family based and oriented organization. Mothers bring their children. For many, husbands and parents have remained in Ukraine to fight the war or they were trapped behind lines and could not get out.
The adults I work with are waiting to receive temporary work permits. Their stay here is complicated by a bureaucracy that changes its mind daily, is cumbersome and slow, and physically distant and uncommunicative. Our refugees wrestle with housing, medical issues, and the basic requirement of life, food.
Our immigrants spend their wait time learning English so that when the work permit finally arrives, they will be better prepared to enter our workforce.
Many of our volunteer tutors are retired teachers. Consequently, we are able to introduce young children to the English speaking world. It is these children who really make my day every Saturday even though I am not involved in tutoring them directly.
Imagine, if you will, an eight year old girl whose life a few months ago was torn apart by Putin’s rockets, bombs and missiles. Her apartment was destroyed, as well as her church, school and playground, all directly targeted by Putin as a matter of policy. Imagine this eight year old child making her way with her family from the rubble in Ukraine through half a dozen countries to reach shelter here on our shores. Then hear with my ears as this same child plays, giggles and laughs with other children. See with my eyes this same child doing cartwheels in the safety of our church hall at the end our class as I did yesterday.