Volunteer experience: ACE
Sydney Tappan, Staff Writer
As a junior taking all English based courses, attempting to remember the different layers of the Earth’s crust and the Pythagorean theorem proved more difficult than I originally anticipated. Proving even more difficult, was the attempt to explain this now foreign information to children whose first language is not English.
Through Assumption’s “Introduction to Journalism” class, aside from learning aspects of journalism, we would also be learning how to successfully complete the Community Service Learning, or CSL, hourly requirement. Specifically, Assumption works with the African Community Education organization. African Community Education, or ACE, is a volunteer-based program that aims to assist African immigrants and refugees through their education and social stability in society. Supporting children throughout the school week and families of all ages on Saturday’s, ACE works to empower these families through their culture and new development in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Almost every Monday throughout the fall semester, I and four other students would carpool to All Saints Church in Worcester, to give our best attempt at helping with homework. Having never been good at science or math, I often found myself either looking the questions up on Google, managing to make the kids laugh in the process. An important aspect of volunteering with the kids was knowing our role also served as a distraction to them. All Saints Church could act as a safe haven, where they were given free lunch and could freely laugh and joke with their friends. They could have fun and do homework without the heavy weight of whatever they may have been carrying from their home life or past. It was important that we, as volunteers, were aware that many of the students may have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or impoverish living situations.
Though going to All Saints Church never felt like work or homework, it provided an outlet outside of my own life and to creatively work with kids. My own stress and worries immediately evaporated with one foot in the door as I knew I didn’t have anything to worry about for at least the next hour. Having never worked with children, I found myself smiling every time I left; ready to share my experience from the hour and a half with friends and family. Given this opportunity, it was something I never thought I would do, let alone enjoy. I found myself looking forward to spending time with them, even though we were working on homework, they often offered a different outlook.
I began working specifically with one special 11 year old girl, Justine, weekly. After first being introduced, we worked solely on spelling and grammar. She had never been taught the science behind sentence structure and it was difficult to explain something that came so easily to me, something that I had been taught since I could talk. I started from the basics of sounding words out and working through sentences that sounded right or wrong to her. Every week I began seeing progress as she remembered my anecdotes from the previous week, I began feeling accomplished for both her and myself. Her familiar smile and recognition made going back worth it; the hour and a half had never been enough time.
After having fully completed a semester of volunteering with ACE, I have both learned and taught things that I never expected to. As part of ACE’s annual celebration of the hard work put in, I and the other volunteers attended their gala. From fabrics to food, I was immediately immersed in African culture. This was something that immediately set me apart from friends and family; I had seen a different side of the world through the lens of ACE.
As someone who had never volunteered their time towards this type of work, it is something that I am grateful for having the opportunity to do. I have a greater appreciation for culture, one that is outside of the North East. The program has also made me more aware, as you may never know what someone may be dealing with and how hard they may be trying to fit into our admirable but ambitious culture. ACE served in helping me to become someone who is not only more aware but someone with a stronger desire to help and make a difference.