Volunteers Team Up for Refugees

Volunteer Stories 
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Our volunteer teaching team has gone above and beyond to help prepare our refugees with the language and skills necessary to succeed in their first jobs in the United States. They collectively lead 60 hours of ESL classes a week.

On Friday, March 31, the Refugee Employment and Advancement Program (REAP) bade a happy retirement to Sheila Shinn, NSC’s primary ESL instructor for NSC’s refugee vocational ESL class. Moving forward and through the summer, NSC’s refugee vocational ESL class is being taught by a dynamic team of dedicated volunteers.


NSC recognizes that it is critical that we are able to provide the highest quality of ESL services to newly arriving refugees. A client’s ability to understand certain words could mean the difference between a job offer and an unsuccessful job interview. The vocational ESL class is broken into three cohorts taught by a rotation of volunteers, all organized by a work study student from the University of Pennsylvania. This effort is a model of successful strategic partnerships with volunteers and community groups.


Our volunteer teaching team has gone above and beyond to help prepare our refugees with the language and skills necessary to succeed in their first jobs in the United States. They collectively lead 60 hours of ESL classes a week, with an additional 30 to 40 hours of prep work. Some have co-teachers to help lead a class of sometimes up to fifteen people of varying languages of origin and educational background, some do not. Some teach different levels and subjects throughout the week. They have worked together outside of their time at NSC to prepare lessons and ensure that they can give refugees the best tools. While we often find ourselves inspired by the resilience and optimism of our clients, lately the REAP team has been impressed by the seemingly endless amounts of flexibility, patience, and commitment to our clients exhibited by these volunteers. 


One of our work study students, Grace Bridy, who was hired in December to help track our clients’ attendance, has coordinated the schedules of 21 people to ensure that every teaching slot is covered and has agreed to return to NSC in the fall to ensure the smooth continuity of the program. She even organized a fundraiser at UPenn to support NSC. 


In essence, it is amazing to see so many people rise to the occasion to support newly arrived refugees and help us strengthen the services we can provide. Refugees, upon arriving in the U.S. face a plethora of obstacles, but it is so much easier to do so when they have an army of supporters behind him. If you are interested in becoming an ESL volunteer and contributing to this mission, please contact Pablo Baeza at Pbaeza@nscphila.org. We would love to have you on our team!