Every person deserves to live in a place where they have every opportunity to have a network and community to support them. Refugees are in a unique situation. They are constantly pulled between two worlds—the beloved homeland they left behind and their newfound home, whose culture and language may be foreign, but which has provided long-awaited safety and security. Many of these families have endured much for the opportunities that await them here.
Learning the English language is one of the greatest barriers to success faced by refugees. Our English program aims to facilitate the acquisition of the English language among refugees in our community that lack established support networks, through English lessons, community outings, and interpersonal relationships. There are many intensive language programs throughout South Florida, but our program is unique in that we go into people’s homes and teach English in a comfortable and unintimidating environment. These lessons provide an opportunity for tutors and students to form meaningful connections and for tutors to develop a program that best fits the individual needs of each family.
Although the program began as an English language program for Syrian refugees, it quickly grew into much more. As the relationships between tutors and student developed, the tutors became mentors, resources, and friends. They have worked with students to create resumes and family budgets, advocated on behalf of the children for school bus passes and extra assistance with homework, and helped their families learn their way around Miami. These are only a handful of examples of how our tutors’ roles have expanded, and we are thrilled each day when our tutors report on their new efforts for their students. Responding to the unique needs of each student often involves trying to connect them with desperately needed services. In some cases, the tutors can provide the resources themselves, as with one tutor who helped her student prepare for a driver’s exam. But the tutors cannot provide all that their students need, especially as the families struggle to become self-sufficient. Your support, then, is vital to bridging the gap between getting settled and simply getting by. Offering financial support to RAA allows our organization to provide direct aid when needed, but more importantly, to create resource networks that will help our students develop the skills necessary to survive, and thrive.
As our program expands beyond English instruction, it is also expanding to refugees and asylees from other nationalities. The Refugee Assistance Alliance is open to all refugees in need who lack an established support network. Our main purpose is to provide support through education, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, religion, or language.
The goal of our program is two-fold. First, assist refugees in learning survival English to help them navigate and communicate in their new homeland. Second, we seek to build bridges across cultures. We encourage tutors to use their lessons to not only teach students about life and culture in the U.S., but also to learn about the home culture and life of our refugee families. Ultimately, we hope our program promotes peace and understanding among the people of South Florida.