by Janie Anderson
The first time I knocked on their door, I was nervous. Did I really know what I was getting into? I knew I would be meeting with a Muslim refugee mother and her daughter to help them with English as a private tutor, but that’s all I knew. Walking up the steps to their apartment in the public housing complex, I was exceedingly aware of the two very different worlds we came from. Would I, with my limited experience, actually have anything to offer them?
One of my favorite parts of Peninsula Fellow so far has been the volunteer requirement. The Fellows program emphasizes that finding a way to help others is vital to a balanced, Biblically-based lifestyle, and I’m grateful to Peninsula Fellows for working with me so that I can volunteer in a way that really interests me, and allows me to get experience in a career field I may want to pursue.
In college, I studied English and believed I wanted a job in the publishing industry, where I could read and edit other people’s words in a quiet, orderly office. After two years of teaching English to college students in Asia, I have a completely different outlook on career and calling. I’ve realized that I want a job where I help people more directly, possibly social work, and that I desire to work with immigrants or refugees. I was connected with a refugee family through a member of Peninsula Community Chapel, and I’ve been meeting with them and growing our relationship every other Friday.
When I met Leila*, she was reserved, but I could tell she was excited. I found out that she’s in the tenth grade at the local high school, loves math, and dreams of going to college. By the end of my visit, she was excitedly telling me about her extended family and showing me photos on her phone of her old life before her family came to America. She told me she needed help with grammar and writing more than speaking. She went to show me her English homework, and to my delight, I found that her class was learning rules about comma use, and that it was something I knew well and enjoyed. We spent two hours going over it together.
Nadia* was more shy, at first, than her daughter. I finally bonded with her when we realized her youngest son has the same name as the young son of my close friend. She was so excited when I showed her pictures of them. On my last visit, we had fun going over the words to “Deck the Halls” together. Nadia is learning the Christmas carol for a Christmas party her church-sponsored English class is hosting. She needed help with pronunciation, and I enjoyed explaining what many of the old-fashioned words meant. At the end of my visit, I felt honored when Nadia invited me to attend their Christmas party next month to watch them perform.
Meeting with Leila and Nadia has blessed me in many ways, including showing me that I do have something I can offer them, and has given me a lens through which to view my God-given gifts, as well as clarity for how I might continue using my gifts in the future. The Leviticus 19:34 call to treat immigrants and refugees with kindness was made clear to me in new ways when I lived internationally, and I feel passionate about putting that into practice now that I have returned to the U.S. I am so excited to see where these relationships lead over the next few months, and I feel lucky to get to learn from and teach Leila and Nadia
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
About the Author
Janie graduated from Christopher Newport University in 2017 with a BA in English. After graduating, she taught English to college students in Asia for two years. Currently, she is a marketing intern at Alliance Solutions Group. In her free time, Janie enjoys reading and spending time in coffee shops.