Can you imagine leaving your family, friends and home behind and moving to a foreign country alone? Now add this complication: you can’t speak the language. Wake Forest junior, Stephanie Edwards, works with refugees in this exact situation in our Winston-Salem community each week. She volunteers with World Relief Immigrant Services.
World Relief, funded by both the government and private donations, aids refugees that have fled to America from various countries around the world. Stephanie says, “When they have such limited opportunities and come from half-way across the world, having World Relief makes it that much easier. I couldn’t imagine doing that on my own. The organization really looks out for them every step of the way to see that the family has properly adjusted to living in a completely new culture.”
In addition to helping these people find jobs and housing, World Relief also provides English classes. This is where Stephanie comes in.
Every Monday and Friday, she volunteers her time, teaching a group of Burmese immigrants basic English. In addition to teaching these adults simple English words and greetings, she teaches them how to interview for jobs in English.
At first, Stephanie was uneasy about this endeavor. She remembers, “ I was nervous about teaching the class because I was told that these refugees couldn’t speak a word of English. I didn’t know how I would communicate with them!”
But after a few weeks, she could really see the impact she was making. Stephanie says, “When I returned to class for the second session, I realized that they had remembered what I had taught them. It was truly rewarding to see they had remembered and were interested in learning the language, especially since a lot of them are older and it is so difficult to learn a language later in life.”
So how can you make an impact, collegiettes™? Well, Stephanie first found out about the organization at the Wake Forest Gap Fair. She reminds Wake students, “There are a lot of great organizations that come to the fair, anything from PeaceCorps to Teach For America. You should really check it out!”
If you are interested in working with local refugees, check out World Relief’s website --http://worldrelief.org/Page.aspx?pid=2709. You can become an English as a Second Language (ESL) trainer, where you can teach basic English to a class of 10-12. You can also become a “family friend” by visiting a refugee family one or twice a week to help them get adjusted to the U.S. by helping with cooking, paperwork and other day to day troubles. World Relief also has internships available that you can check out on their website.
Stephanie’s work reminds us how simple actions can really make a difference in the lives of others. She says, “Seeing the progress of the class showed me that I can really make a difference in my community, in my world.” So get out there, collegiettes™, and make that difference!