We are grateful for volunteers like Jenny Tomlinson who make a difference in the lives of refugees. Jenny has been teaching English classes at the Exodus office since November 2019 and has continued to teach clients virtually during the coronavirus pandemic.
I started volunteering at Exodus after I left a job as a teacher’s assistant. I was an English as a New Language Instructional Assistant at a Carmel elementary school for five and a half years. I loved teaching English to these young students, most of whom were new immigrants to the U.S. I found myself missing this type of teaching and the connection to people new to America. I knew of Exodus’ refugee program and it seemed like a great fit.
The process to become a volunteer was very well-organized and thorough. It has been different teaching adults, but very fulfilling to get to know so many amazing people. I strive to be an example of the welcoming spirit of America and be as helpful as I can so that the students I work with trust me and know that they can turn to me for help. I truly feel like I get as much, if not more, out of volunteering than the students. The students are so appreciative and that makes the volunteer experience even more gratifying.
I teach a class of women who encourage each other and speak frankly. I can tell that these women care for each other and want to see each other succeed. I also love seeing children of the students and waving to the little ones on Zoom.
My favorite moments teaching are when we can share a laugh as a class, but I also love it when the students get to talk to each other and build rapport among themselves. I teach a class of women who encourage each other and speak frankly. I can tell that these women care for each other and want to see each other succeed. I also love seeing children of the students and waving to the little ones on Zoom.
I’ve learned a lot more about the difficulties refugees face. Students have told me stories about fleeing their home countries and living in refugee camps in new countries. In one of my classes, we discussed attributes of physical homes and each student tearfully shared that their homes had been burned down. It is still hard to comprehend the tragedies refugees face before being able to start anew in America.
I wish more than anything that people would have more compassion for refugees! I wish more people knew about their stories of trauma and what they have experienced. I wish that people knew that refugees are truly amazing people that have overcome so much more than most Americans can begin to imagine.
COVID-19 has moved my teaching to Zoom. I decided to add an extra teaching day because I no longer have to commute to the Exodus office. I don’t feel like moving to Zoom has been an impairment in any way. Not only do I not have to travel to the office to teach, but students can learn from their own homes without long bus rides. Since I teach level 4 English my students have easily transitioned to the online platforms. Because we also use WhatsApp, students get a written message about homework and resources to learn English outside of class time.