What I Learned Volunteering in a Migrant Community
Over the course of four years, I spent a few hours a week volunteering at a public school near the Salton Sea, assisting a second grade teacher’s students with reading and pronunciation. It was a lovely drive through fields of green peppers, strawberries, jalapeno bushes and long expanses of date palms. Now that we’ve moved away from the desert, I’m reminiscing about some of the things I miss. And working with adorable children with starry eyes and big dreams is on that list.
The following is a brief list of things I learned:
· I learned that most second graders want to make friends with everyone.
· Most of them want to learn to read in English and pronunciation is important to them
· They want to do well in school and make their parents and teachers proud.
· They don’t want to migrate or move because a harvest is complete.
· They don’t want to leave the United States because this is home.
· Their mommy and daddy work very hard packing dates or picking peppers
· Many of them like the company of several Chihuahuas.
· They get balanced meals at school but not much at home.
· Many of them have many brothers and sisters who are busy
· Noisy parents and older siblings keep them up at night
· Most of them love Dr. Seuss
· Most are very loving, trusting children wanting affection
· They generally shop at Walmart
· Many have fathers who were deported
· Some had fathers who were in jail.
· Many of the little girls love pink hoodies and plastic bangles.
· They appreciated everything I tried to teach them but are sleepy sometimes.
· Many of them get very excited about the Scholastic Book caravan in the library.
· Many of them have to cook or babysit for other family members and siblings.
· It’s not easy to study at home, and many times no one speaks English at home.
· By being born in the U.S., these kids have lofty goals and aspirations. (I hope I encouraged them.)
· For some Native American children, English was their third language after Spanish.
· Many relatives rely on public transportation
· Most importantly, I learned most are very smart and super sweet. I miss those smiles.
Everyone’s heard that volunteering is rewarding and I have to say without any doubt that it was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life. What about you, have you done some volunteer work? What about these children—what do you think about their future?