PECO Exelon and Blank Rome Staff Become Conversation and Cooking Partners with Refugees

Volunteer Stories 
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NSC's REAP ESL class recently visited Blank Rome, a law firm in located in Center City, Philadelphia. The REAP class consists of newly arrived refugees who meet at NSC and engage in up to 30 hours of vocational English language assistance each week.   Refugees participating in the class are actively searching for employment in partnership with NSC’s employment team. 

Blank Rome and members of the PECO Exelon legal team joined forces for a day of services.  Some Blank Rome and PECO staff participated in a "conversation partners" event, giving Blank Rome and PECO representatives the opportunity to work with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures, while providing the students with essential speaking practice. Each student was paired with a native English-speaking representative, and each pair discussed a series of job interview questions. The event was set-up in a "speed dating" format, with pairs switching every 10 minutes. Although the event was meant to provide professional development experience for both groups, the students and representatives quickly moved past its vocational objectives into more personally meaningful conversations. The participants found they had more in common than expected, and language did not pose a barrier between common beliefs and values.

After the event at the law firm, the REAP students and the Blank Rome and PECO representatives moved to the Free Library of Philadelphia for a cooking class. Designed to bring people together through the universal experience of cooking, the class gave the participants another opportunity to continue their conversations in a more familiar, casual setting. Students and representatives alike shared their cooking techniques, comparing differences and similarities across cultures. The final product was Chana Masala, an Indian stew filled with chickpeas, onions, and tomatoes, topped with a cucumber, yogurt-based dressing. The participants served their meal with naan, an Indian flatbread and ended the day by sharing a delicious meal together.