My New Adventure

It's been about 18 months since I stopped volunteering with the Utah AIDS Foundation. Every other week for nearly three years I delivered hot meals to home-bound end-stage HIV patients. It was an incredible experience. Incredibly difficult and incredibly meaningful. When I stopped volunteering for UAF life quickly filled in the gaps, I let myself be consumed by work and other concerns, and before I knew it, even my other regular volunteer commitment (selling hand-made artisan crafts at Ten Thousand Villages), became less and less frequent. I was still very active in the community and involved in all sorts of volunteer and committee work...but nothing as concentrated as my time delivering meals.

Recognizing my desire to engage once again in that concentrated way, I began exploring my options. I've always wanted to work with the refugee community. I have scouted out countless opportunities over the years, made a handful of phone calls, and kept in touch with various friends in the field, but nothing ever seemed to fit. It knew it was something I wanted to do, but it wasn't quite right. Yet.

Late one night a few months back I saw a PSA on PBS featuring Catherine Barnhart, Executive Director of the English Skills Learning Center. The ESLC provides 16 hours of training, manuals and resources for me to keep, one-on-one personalized matching services, and ongoing in-service workshops. That's it. That was the opportunity I'd been waiting for.

How, do you ask, do I plan to fit two 90-minute tutoring sessions into each week, find time to create custom lesson plans for my student, and do it all in and around my demanding work and travel schedule? I honestly can't tell you. I feel as though this entire experience, up until this very moment, has been operating on complete auto-pilot. I saw the PSA, the next day I made the call, their quarterly training was the very next week...and I was off. I completed the 16-hour training, received my certification, and have been successfully matched with my student.

Auto-pilot or not, it's all finally hitting me. I met my student last week (on International Refugee Day, of all appropriate days) and it became very real very quickly. No more abstract talk about TPR and TOEFL techniques for survival skills. My auto-pilot came to a grinding halt and my uber-organizer kicked into high gear. The uber-organizer in me loves her time in the spotlight, but I still don't know quite what this will look like yet. What I can tell you is that life has taught me that when I put my energy into positive actions, toward the greater good, whatever you want to call it, a way is made for me. We each make our path by walking, right?

Tabesha is a refugee from Sudan. She has been in Salt Lake with her husband for eight years now, has five children, and English will be her fourth language behind Nuba and Arabic, in both of which she is fluent, and braille, which she is currently learning. Our second introductory meeting is tomorrow and then the real tutoring begins.

I will respect Tabesha's privacy and that of her family, but I also know that I'll need a space to process my own thoughts. With that in mind, I've created a new label for the posts about this experience, "Adventures with Tabesha." Here goes nothing...

Silver Falls Park | Oregon

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