Students from a variety of Memphis city schools seek support for school work from loving volunteers and employees at the Refugee Empowerment Program. The program serves an average of about 250 elementary, middle and high school students in their afterschool tutoring sessions Monday-Thursday. The program provides tutoring and other forms of support for students who have come from various countries around the world.
While helping a ninth grade boy with his geography homework, he shared with me how he moved to the U.S. from Ethiopia with seven of his eight siblings. His eldest sister was unable to leave the country, and he has been unable to see her since his move. He explained how the Refugee Empowerment Program came to his school to tell new students about the services they provide. He attends the afterschool program almost every day. When it was time for students to leave, he told me, “thank you for helping me, will you be back to help?” The students involved in the program need tutoring, but they also need love and encouragement.
As I helped one young boy with his spelling homework, it came to my attention that the fifth grader could barely read. An employee had informed me that he had only been in the program several weeks and would need extra help. Without my help, it would not have been possible for him to complete his homework. It is most likely that his parents would not have been able to help him finish the work either. R.E.P. has made it possible for children like this one to receive support every day. It is inevitable that his, as well as, many other students’ skills will improve due to the constant support and hands on learning.
I even found myself realizing that these children were already destined to be better students in a few subjects than I was. One boy was doing mental math at age eight; I could hardly use it at twenty-two. I was reluctant to show them how to add, for fear I might teach them the wrong way. To my surprise, math did not seem to be a problem for most of the students. While the students might have language barriers, they are very intelligent, and only need words sounded out and spelling corrected.
The students I was able to help during my short time spent at the program showed me their humble hearts, and it gave me great joy to help them finish simple worksheets and math problems. When I arrived, I was greeted with the faces of curious children eager to ask for my help. Before I left, more than a handful of girls and boys had come up and asked my name and if I would be able to help them. Unfortunately, I could not help all of them.
The program has been in existence for 11 years now. Since the non-profit only holds three full-time employees and such a large amount of students after school each day, they are in need of more volunteers to help with tutoring. Volunteers are needed during the hours of 3:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. If you would like to volunteer, please contact 901-725-3103, or sign up online at http://www.repmemphis.org/#!contact/cudb. R.E.P. is located at 258 N. Merton Avenue, Memphis, TN 38112.
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