Keith and Lisa’s volunteer journey with World Relief DuPage/Aurora (WRDA) began over three years ago after they had retired from full-time work. “We wanted to have purpose in our retirement years and to serve God together in ministry,” they remember.
After hearing about World Relief's ministry through their church, they learned about the need for ESL tutors to help newly resettled refugee families practice English in their homes. They decided that this was their opportunity, and were soon matched with a young Burmese family. Now – 3 years later – the two families have developed a close friendship.
“Our weekly meetings have focused on English lessons, but have also allowed us to help out in practical ways,” Keith and Lisa explain. Lisa, who retired from a long career as a teacher, prepares the English lessons each week, while Keith has enjoyed helping their new neighbors set up their computer and organize their finances.
By combining their individual strengths and volunteering together, they have been able to support the family more holistically as they adjust to life in their new community. “We have also become ‘grandparents’ to their son and daughter, and celebrated holidays at our home together,” they beam. “This whole experience has been so rewarding for us.”
Serving as an English tutor is just one way that couples and families find to volunteer together with World Relief. Parents and their children can also participate together as summer youth club volunteers, families can organize donation drives together, and Good Neighbor Teams are often made up of spouses, parents and children all serving side-by-side.
Roxanne and Jason, who volunteer together with their four young children are thrilled by the opportunity WRDA gives them to serve as a family. "For us, volunteering with our kids is about helping them understand what welcome and extending love looks like. We believe talking about how Jesus invites us to love our neighbors is not enough—we need to engage in that act of loving," Roxanne says. “This means we spend time with folks who may look, speak or dress a bit differently, but as we move past these initial differences our kids learn to see the common humanity in each of us.” After visiting a Syrian refugee family recently, Roxanne and Jason’s daughter said, "Mama, I'm so thankful I have friends that are from around the world. Thanks for taking me with you."
Recently, volunteers have begun serving together in a new way as they welcome refugees and immigrants to their new homes, neighborhoods, and school districts. As In-Home Family Adjustment Tutors volunteers build a relationship with a refugee family with school-aged children and walk alongside them as they adjust to the U.S. school system. For 4-6 months, volunteers visit a family’s home, assisting the children with homework and helping the parents understand more about how they can support their children’s education.
Malita Gardner, the Children and Youth Program Manager for WRDA’s DuPage office, explains how In-Home Family Adjustment Tutors can help refugee families as they integrate into their new communities. “As a refugee student it is hard to keep up with homework, and as a parent it is hard to sort through and keep up with all the announcements, papers, and activities, all while learning English and perhaps having different cultural expectations about parental involvement.” She continues, “To be paired with a family who is still figuring out how to adjust to these changes and to be able to practically help both the student in their academics and the parents in adjustment is a gift, and transforms both families in different ways.”
If you would like to volunteer with your family as an In-Home Family Adjustment Tutor, or in another capacity, you can get started by filling out a new volunteer application.