A mother saw a need in her community. Volunteers answered her call to fill that need.
Kristen Bloom attended her first Syrian Supper Club in April 2017 and learned there was a need for English tutors. She began working with one family and saw the need for several other families to have tutors. She worked with the Muslim Women’s Organization of South Florida and Project Motherpath to recruit volunteers, and slowly began the process of formalizing the program. Refugee Assistance Alliance is a Florida not for profit corporation with 501(c)(3) status. RAA works with more than 90 people throughout Miami Dade and Broward counties.
Like many refugees, these families endured a long, unpredictable, and often dangerous journey to arrive in the United States. Many families waited in refugee camps for three to four years before finding out they would be resettled in the U.S. The families we work with report feeling a sense of relief knowing they now live somewhere safe. They yearned and dreamed for peace and security for years, and they have finally found it in South Florida.
Although arriving in the U.S. has been a dream come true for many of these families, this is far from the end of their journey. Resettlement means learning a new language, finding employment, enrolling children in school, adapting to a new culture with different customs, values, and belief systems. These challenges are daunting and can seem insurmountable to people who have left behind everything they once knew in search of a more secure future for their families.
Language acquisition is the key to success for many refugees. Without English, adult refugees have a difficult time finding a job, learning to drive, reading road signs, scheduling appointments, talking to doctors and teachers, helping a child with homework or otherwise supporting their language acquisition, paying bills, navigating the healthcare system, making friends, and assimilating.
The Refugee Assistance Alliance of South Florida is especially dedicated to helping mothers with English language acquisition. For various reasons, including but not limited to, cultural traditions, religion, schedule, childcare, etc. many women are unable to attend established language programs. Therefore, we formed a group of volunteers to teach them English in an informal setting. Our program is unique in that our tutors go into the homes of our students and teach them where they feel most comfortable. Lessons are individualized to meet the needs of our students. A mother who knows basic English can help to transition her family more smoothly to their new lives and culture. She can advocate for her children. She can communicate with teachers, doctors, coaches, religious leaders, and other parents. She can help her family assimilate and succeed in their new home.
As any tutor or student in our program will attest, this program is much more than mere language acquisition. This program is also about building bridges and a sense of community. Meeting someone who calls the U.S. home and has the desire to help our families navigate their new land is worth much more to these families than an English lesson. Tutors often tell us they feel they are learning more from their student than they are teaching. The cross-cultural relationship that forms between tutor and student is really at the heart of this program.