“Esperanza” – Spanish for “Hope”
January 1, 2012
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Imagine you have just arrived in a country completely foreign to you. You do not speak the language, comprehend the social gestures, and neither are you familiar with the culture. From the moment you step foot on this new soil, you are thrust into a world where you are constantly challenged to adapt to your new surroundings and community.
The above is a real life story for many: those who immigrate to another country in hopes of a better life. Whether this be had through improved job opportunities, refuge from conflict or persecution, or reuniting with family, they leave in hopes of better circumstance wherever their destination lies. During my time thus far spent fulfilling community service hours at Esperanza Center, teaching my native language to others, I have learned much about cultures and individual lives different from my own.
At Esperanza, volunteer-teachers as well as full-time instructors teach beginning to advanced English to students. The majority of these pupils are Hispanic immigrants who have come to the United States, and quite a number of them speak little to no English at the start of their careers at Esperanza Center. But through innovative and diverse teaching methods brought to the table by each teacher, as well as strong persistence and repetition with the material, each student can leave with the ability to communicate and find a job, buy their groceries, get directions, and connect with those around them.
To watch each student progress, even in a single two-hour class period, is wonderful — they begin to make significant headway with their knowledge of the language throughout the course of their classes and move steadily from there. Even more amazing to experience is the day when the student becomes the teacher. I had the honor of witnessing and assisting a former student at Esperanza in becoming a volunteer-teacher. It is truly an encouragement to all the staff and students when one individual makes it so far — it demonstrates just how much every single student can succeed with hard work.
Though I began my community service at Esperanza Center a mere month ago, I have already learned so much and have been graciously welcomed into the teaching community. I plan to fulfill quite a few more hours there helping with the teaching. It is great to not only give the students the knowledge they need to survive, but to connect with them and provide them with the self-confidence essential to thriving in the environment here. “Esperanza” means hope, and that is exactly what is most needed by those who immigrate. We give them the tools to understand and be understood, and along the way, bonds of trust are formed that provide confidence for leading a lifetime of successful independence in their new country.