Thursday, August 26, 2010

Noodles for a great cause!!

September 9 is the birthday of Emily Griffith Opportunity School. Here's an idea for a birthday gift that's good for you and the school. On September 9, eat at Noodles & Company's location at 6th Avenue and Broadway in Denver after 4:00 p.m.. Mention the school, and part of your purchase will be donated to the Emily Griffith Foundation. The Foundation funds student scholarships and school improvements, and many refugees have benefited from this generosity.

Save the date, and save room for a great (inexpensive) meal!!

Don't strain your eyes...Click on the picture to enlarge!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Currently on the NPR Website: Two stories about refugees and school--and both provide valuable insight into how a person's background affects life as a student.

New Refugee Students In NY Get Ready For US School
by The Associated Press

Photo, Associated Press/NPR

For their first fire drill, teachers at the Refugee Youth Summer Academy gathered their students, leading them out of the building to show them what to do during drills in the upcoming school year.

But one thing was missing: the sirens. They had been muted, for fear blaring alarms could trigger terror in children who recently arrived from war zones and other conflict areas where sirens can signal danger.

The silent fire drill was part of the balancing act for staff at the 6-week summer program that helps children who have survived wars and refugee camps prepare for a new experience — American public school.

It's not just about the academics, said Elizabeth Demchak, principal of the school run by the International Rescue Committee, which works with refugees and asylum-seekers.

For some of the kids, formal education has been haphazard or nonexistent, Demchak said. For others, school consisted of sitting and taking notes surrounded by dozens of others with a teacher reciting a lecture.

Preparing them means helping them learn how to go to school along with what they learn there.

To read the rest of the story, please click here.

To read or listen to the second story (listening to it gives a more authentic experience and may actually be easier to follow), please click here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Refugee kids doing something good

From KUSA in Denver, a short piece about Growing Colorado Kids. This group helps refugee kids learn to raise their own vegetables, as well as sell some. Participants also learn cooking and nutrition skills. You can read more by clicking here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

More from the field...

Ann Lockhart is technically retired, but still works as a freelance editor. She has been a volunteer teacher in the CRESL In-home Tutoring Program since 2000.

Why I like tutoring refugees
by Ann Lockhart

Tutoring refugees has been a very satisfying and absorbing volunteer activity for me since my early retirement. Refugees really need the help to function here, not only with English, but also with daily life challenges like doctor’s appointments, deciphering junk mail, telemarketers, making appointments, filling out forms, etc.

Just as they learn the basics of the language and American culture, I always learn a lot about them, their country, culture and food. Many have stories of political discrimination, torture and displacement. Unfortunately, they can’t explain much of their past until they learn more English.

Having an ongoing personal relationship with each refugee has been really important, interesting and challenging for me. It makes me realize how very fortunate we Americans are. We think we are not rich, but we have so much more than any of them do.

After their traumatic departure from their homeland, refugees come to the U.S. exhausted, but hopeful about starting a new life in one of the richest countries of the world. Then reality sets in. They have to learn so much so fast, starting with the money, the transportation, getting a job, shopping for basics and paying back the loan for their long flight to the U.S. They also get a small apartment with mismatched furniture and very basic supplies.

A man and his wife from Sudan who later lived in Egypt were my first refugee students. He had been a self-educated magazine publisher in Khartoum, and was a political prisoner for 10 years. I was really, really nervous about meeting them, and I think they were just as nervous. But we all relaxed as in-home refugee coordinator Sharon McCreary broke the ice and introduced us. I continued meeting with them for several years, watching their children grow, learn English, attend school and gradually begin to call Denver home.

The Sudanese family was absolutely thrilled when I took them to the Denver Art Museum to see the Cezanne exhibit and again absolutely excited when I got some free tickets to take them to the Denver Symphony. I also took them to see the Glendale fireworks display July 3rd and Sunday night summer concerts at City Park.

My second assignment was tutoring a woman from Iraq with a small child, whose husband went back to Iraq as a translator to the U.S. Army during the war there. Often our English lessons were interrupted by a child’s demands, cries or interruptions. I learned a lot about Iraq and the war there.

She worked really hard to study for her citizenship test, asking me to go over and over the questions weeks before her scheduled meeting. I took her to the office for her test, which consisted of only 10 questions. To her great relief, she did very well. Attending the citizenship ceremony with many other refugees with their friends and families was a really moving experience for me.

Next was a Somali Bantu woman who left an abusive marriage, taking her baby boy with her. Little by little her traumatic life story came out. Her father was a general, and her mother a shopkeeper, but their lives all changed dramatically when warlords took over the government. Her entire extended family is scattered in various countries. She eventually went to St. Louis, Missouri, hoping to get a job and start over.

A woman from Bhutan, whose family was forced to leave that country for neighboring Nepal, is my current assignment. Her two little girls run in and out, and family members come in and out as we try to focus on the English lessons. Her neighbor asked if she could join us, so now we three work together every week.

Preparing lessons does take some time, but I know the better I prepare, the better it goes. With the Picture dictionary, flash cards, workbooks, paper, pencils and whatever else I can come up with, we keep on working.

It’s been fun for me to share with all of them what I love about Denver and the United States. It takes time for us to communicate well about more difficult, abstract issues, going beyond pictures, gestures and simple words.

I highly recommend in-home tutoring as a very satisfying volunteer activity.

Photo courtesy of Ann Lockhart

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Employment alert

Some of you have asked about jobs in the CRESL program. There are currently several openings. Send your resume to:
Slavica Park, Dean of Instruction
Emily Griffith Opportunity School
1250 Welton St.
Denver, CO 80222
Do not call!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Time to report your hours!

It's time to report your in-home tutoring hours for JULY 2010. Please submit via email no later than this Thursday, August 5!

On Saturday, your volunteer coordinator will be heading out of town to vacation at an undisclosed location where she most definitely does not wish to spend her time working on the monthly report. (Have we ever mentioned vacations are unpaid?)

Please report your hours in a timely manner!

Sharon returns to the office on Monday, August 23, but will not be checking in during the two-week summer break. Ahhhhh.....

A visit to women's Saturday ESL class...

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