Tag Archives: Volunteering

Friday Global Giving: Become a Rosetta Stone Supplement

I feel like this week I’ve been reading all kinds of posts about the growth and maintenance of languages. Moment Matters wrote a great post about Mandarin being the new global language. I also really enjoyed Loving Language’s post this week about the importance of the US becoming a multi-lingual nation. Yet even as there is push for learning and protecting languages, English remains in the highest demand by language learners due to it being the coined “global language”. For this reason, teaching English abroad is one of the easiest ways for native-English speakers to live abroad with a legal work visa and a little money in their pocket. For anyone interested in exploring  the life of teaching English abroad, there are some great examples in the blogging world. Some of my favorites include:

  • Quinn in Morocco – she teaches English to children in Morocco through the Peace Corps
  • Our Dear Lady Expatriate – has been teaching English for several years, first in South Korea and now in Cambodia
  • Travel Thayer – an English teacher in an elementary school in South Korea

But teaching English is not limited to those of us that want/are able to live abroad. As I’ve worked with the refugee community in Oklahoma City, I’ve realized that for non-English speakers living in English-speaking countries, their needs for language training is extremely great. And there are tons of opportunities for us to help meet this need in our own hometowns. Here are just a few:

Teach in a Classroom Environment

Many religious groups, libraries, and non-for-profit organizations offer English as a Second Language courses. These courses typically meet once a week and are led by a certified TEFL instructor. If you are not TEFL certified, you can often still volunteer in the classroom helping the students with excises and practice conservations.

Serve as a Language Partner

If you prefer one-on-one interaction, becoming a language partner may be the best fit. This is a great way to build a relationship with a recent immigrant and can be mutually instructive if you are willing to learn the native language of your partner. If you prefer to do this virtually, The Mixxer is a site that helps match you with a language partner anywhere in the world.

Become an Online Language Coach

If you’re unable to find a language partner program or ESL course to volunteer in, another easy  opportunity is to volunteer online. Organizations like I Want to Learn English train volunteers to help English language learners practice their skills and ask questions. All you need is a computer and internet.

LanguagePartners5

While Rosetta Stone is certainly a helpful tool for a newly settled immigrant to learn the language, there is nothing like having a real person to help with pronunciation and context. If you’re looking for a way to give back and volunteer for the new year, helping someone learn English could be an ideal choice.

For more information on teaching English, check out this guide done by Colorado State University: Teaching Guide: ESL Volunteer Guide. It is a well-done resource.

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Friday Global Giving: I Need a (Volunteer) Vacation

I’ve always been told that when I give back, I have three resources I can share: time, talents, and treasure. While it’s great to support organizations and ministries through donations, there is nothing more influential than actually digging in with your own two hands and helping a worthy cause. If you search blogs, you’ll find a number of people who have given up time from work to serve in a community at home or abroad. Some of my favorites include:

  • Partners for Peace – a husband and wife duo serving with the Peace Corps in Ecuador
  • Soulshine Traveler – a woman who left her job to volunteer in Latin America and Russia for the past year
  • Clearing Customs – a recently returned missionary figuring out the transition back into American life

Unlike these great bloggers, unfortunately I am not in a place in life where I can go abroad for a long period of time and serve, but I do have some vacation time. This is where the volunteer vacation comes in. Whether you go with a religious organization or a secular non-for-profit, there are some incredible ways to get back abroad and serve. Volunteer vacations are ideal for young professionals, families with elementary through high school aged kids, recent retirees, and really just about anyone. As I’ve worked with students to help them figure out their “beyond study abroad” experience, here are some of the organizations that I think provide quality and culturally conscious volunteer vacation opportunities:

  • Global Volunteers: one of the pioneering organizations of volunteer vacations, this organization  is ideal for the volunteer who may only have a week off from work.
  • GlobeAware: another good org providing week-long volunteer vacations working in schools, teaching English, building, and skill training. Some project sites include Romania, Ghana, Mexico, and Cambodia.
  • World Teach: based at Harvard University, this organization sends volunteers to teach English around the world. This is a great option for college students and teachers as there is a commitment over the summer.
  • Cross-Cultural Solutions: this organization has both short and long-term volunteering options. Check out Soulshine Traveler’s blog for details on her experience with this group.

My senior year of college, I went with a group to Slovakia to work at an English activity camp for high school students. I gave up most of my winter break to be there but in return have wonderful memories and friends from the experience. As you start to plan you 2013 vacation plans, keep a volunteer vacation in mind.

Me in Presov, Slovakia with one of the Slovak students

Friday Global Giving: Operation Christmas Child

I do love this time of year in the US – everyone is excited for vacation time, being with family, and finding the perfect gifts for the dearest people in their lives. I am already gearing up for holiday shopping and will admit that I even started wrapping some gifts this week.

A few years ago Hubby and I decided to add an extra person to our Christmas shopping by participating in a program called Operation Christmas Child. The program is through Samaritan’s Purse, an organization that aids the world’s poor, sick, and hungry. Each November the organization works with local churches to collect shoe boxes full of toys and delivers them to children around the world.

For us, we love going to the toy store together and picking out what we’re going to put in our box each year. This year we’ve decided to do a 10-14 year-old girl so included crafts, notepads, socks, stickers, jewelry, and toiletries. While it’s not much, we do hope that it brightens some little girls day somewhere in the world.

If you are interested in participating in Operation Christmas Child, it is not too late! The boxes are being collected through November 19th and directions for packing and drop-off can be found here.  This is a great project to do with kids or as a group outing with friends or significant other. Who doesn’t like a date at the dollar store? For just a little bit of money and time, you could make a huge impact on a child in Haiti, Mongolia, Madagascar, or beyond.

Friday Global Giving: The Full Plate Club

When my mom was growing up, my grandparents instituted the Clean Plate Club. If she didn’t finish her dinner, she was told there were starving children in China who would love to eat her food. I think she responded with, “I’ll mail it to them.” 🙂

I think most parents now have substituted China with Africa but the sentiment is the same – don’t waste food when there are people going hungry every day. In fact, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 925 million people around the world suffer from consistent hunger.

While perhaps we can’t send the food from our plates, there are great organizations and things to do to help eliminate hunger around the world. For the first Friday Global Giving, check out some of these ideas to help keep plates full:

Courtesy of goldencommunitygarden.org

 

Global Giving Series

For the months of November and December, I decided to do a new series called Global Giving each Friday. For Americans these months are naturally a time we give. Many of us donate to the local food pantry to help stock for the holidays, donate coats for colder weather, or give to a favorite charity before the year-end. Whether you are Stateside or abroad, there are certainly hundreds if not thousands of great causes to give to no matter what time of year it is.

In the next eight weeks I’ll be doing research on global issues like hunger, clean water, healthcare, housing, children’s programs, and poverty and reporting on organizations I find, causes I personally give to, and hands-on ways to give on a global level.

As always, I’m taking recommendations. Whether you run a non-for-profit yourself or give consistently to one that you feel is worthy, please share!

 

Heartbroken Over Algebra

I recently have started helping a young man from Iraq with algebra. Thankfully I’ve been studying for the GRE and I’m not too rusty. But after two and half hours and only 30 math problems into the 50 problem homework, I felt disenfranchised with American education and walked away heartbroken for this young man.

This 15-year-old boy came to the US having been out of school for over 5 years due to the war in Iraq. Knowing no English, he was still placed in a public high school only to fail his first year. Now having been here for a few years, his English is pretty incredible and his accent is almost non-existent. But when it comes to knowing words like denominator, quotient, or divisible, those are not in his repertoire. As one of many students in his class, the likelihood of getting individual help is pretty slim for him, and the chance that he’ll ever catch up on the five years of education he missed is grim at best.

I’m far from saying that I know the best solution for this boy, but I feel he is being done an injustice. I am ever so grateful that my country has become a safe harbor for him and his family. But while he is protected from the bombings and shells, the effects from the war are still ever-present in his life as struggles to do 9th grade math with a 4th grade education.

Say a prayer for me, dear friends, that I will remember the rules for graphing a line, solving for x, and completing the quadratic equation. And most of all that I will have the ability to explain them in a way he can understand.

 

Giving the Bird

I have to say that working with the children in the refugee community has been quite a learning experience. It’s funny what comes from their mouths and just how innocent they are.

Before I started volunteering, I did my research on Burmese and Iraqi customs. Don’t touch their heads. Don’t point with my feet. Don’t give the thumbs up sign. I was reminded this week that just as I am learning their cultures, these kids are learning ours.

As I was playing with a group of children at the playground this week, an interesting topic came up. The middle finger. All the sudden one of the little girls runs up to me and says, “I can’t use my middle finger, right?” Before I could even answer, several of the little girls are pointing their middle fingers in the air and saying, “You can’t do this, but you can do this.” And then they quickly switch to their pointer finger. From there a whole conversation ensued about why we don’t use the middle finger in America. Thinking back on the conversation, I’m sure it became a topic of our discussion because one of these little ones unknowingly gave “the bird”. I can imagine one of these little girls raising their own middle finger to read a book or scratch their face, and being met with discomfort, discipline, or distraught behavior by their fellow American peers or teachers. If I were in their shoes, I’m sure I would make the same mistakes. If I went to Iraq, could I stop giving a thumbs up? If I was in Myanmar, could I ensure that I never touch a child’s head? I highly doubt I could. I just hope and pray that I can give the patience and guidance to these little ones, just as I would need if I were learning the customs of their home countries.