Photo: The Genesis Center
I’ve been having the best time lately. I’m volunteering in English classes at three refugee agencies, assisting the classroom teachers. The nonprofits are all near one another in Providence.
Dorcas International is an official refugee resettlement agency. It offers a range of services not just for refugees but for other immigrants and for native-born people living in poverty. At Dorcas, I help a teacher work with students who have just arrived in the United States. Most of them know no English at all, and some never went to school in their own countries and are just learning to write.
We have students from Myanmar, the Dominican Republic and Cape Verde, among others, but they are not all refugees. In fact, the majority of families being resettled by the State Department in Providence right now are from Syria and the Congo.
I read in the paper today that 80 percent of the refugees that have entered the United States this year are children, but I work with adults.
The Genesis Center is not a government resettlement agency, but it works with refugees and other immigrants on English and on job skills. It has a great culinary program and places many people in jobs. It also has a day-care center. The students I work with at the Genesis Center are generally a bit farther along in English.
The Refugee Dream Center was more recently established than the other two. It was founded by Omar Bah, a refugee who had been a journalist in Gambia and who had to flee when his articles on human rights garnered him death threats. Bah’s nonprofit is small so far, but its focus on helping people after the four months or so that they receive government assistance is needed. At the Dream Center last week, I worked with a woman newly arrived from Haiti and another from Burundi who has lived in Providence about a decade.
Pretty much all the students act grateful for the help, and it’s a treat to see a face light up when the penny drops. In January, closer to home, I plan to take a training to co-lead small conversation groups.
Did I mention I’m having a lot of fun?