Help NSC Stay Strong and Double Your Impact!
Dec 4, 2018
My name is Don Denton, and I have been a volunteer teacher at Nationalities Service Center (NSC) for the past year. During this time, I have watched as the agency and those they serve have been under constant assault from policies that harm immigrants and refugees. When my colleagues approached me to write this letter, I quickly realized that by sharing my story, I could provide a reminder to us all as to why this work is so critical and share the joy that comes from engaging with extraordinary individuals who remain hopeful and resilient, despite the cruelest of challenges.
In the 70s and 80s, I taught in countries around the world, including Afghanistan, Iran, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia. As I traveled, I experienced the variegated tapestry of the Islamic world from Morocco to Indonesia. I grew attached to the people, their history, literature, arts, and inventiveness, and I benefited from their legendary hospitality. Returning to teach in American schools, one of my personal missions became to educate my students about the richness of Islamic culture as an antidote to the common stereotypes and misunderstandings about people from those regions. When I retired recently, I wanted to be involved with people from other cultures again as a way to pay back the generous, open-hearted hospitality I had received in my travels. Arriving at NSC for the first time, my impression was that of a welcoming haven of diverse cultures. I saw this as a place where people put their heart into their work, and I wanted to be a part of that kind of endeavor.
In a teaching career of almost 50 years, spanning six countries and three continents, I’ve had some interesting jobs, but my volunteer position teaching English to newly-arrived refugees at NSC is the most fascinating, rewarding, and challenging work I’ve ever done in the vineyards of education. While I’ve taught in international schools abroad, never have I seen such colorful diversity in one place, among both the clients and the staff -- nor have I felt so keenly the value placed upon learning by my students. And I’ve never been so inspired by my students’ resilience, adaptability, and their hopes for the future.
I often wonder about the painful circumstances that brought these people to America and to my classroom. What atrocities beyond their control forced them to abandon their homes and relatives and to leave everything behind, only to spend months or years in refugee camps before restarting their lives in a new culture? Although these stories don’t often come to the surface, my students sometimes share how they are still impacted by what they survived. During a lesson on holidays, we discussed the Muslim celebration of Eid, and a woman from Baghdad broke down weeping because she wasn’t able to celebrate with any of her family. What is so amazing is that I never sense any bitterness or self-pity in these moments, but most often an optimistic will to look forward and to work toward a better future.
NSC remains relentless in its commitment to provide immigrants and refugees like those I’ve described with the services that will lead to opportunities filled with promise for the future - despite the painfully difficult times we are enduring as a result of the confounding assault on our nation’s core values and principles. I’ve gained tremendous respect and affection for my students and my colleagues at NSC, and I can’t imagine a place where I could apply my past experiences and skills so effectively and act on my convictions of working toward a more just society.
Your support is more critical than ever before in helping NSC provide vital services such as health access and legal supports for those who need it. Please join me in honoring the individuals and families we serve at NSC and their hope for a better future by making a contribution to support this incredible organization today – and maximize the impact of your gift through our Year-End Match!
Thank you for allowing me Thank you for allowing me to share my experiences with you, and for your continued, generous support of NSC. I speak for all of us in wishing you and your family a joyful holiday season.
My best regards,
ESL Volunteer Teacher