July Volunteers of the Month: Kaleigh and Ben Bolin
For Kaleigh and Ben Bolin, the long drive is almost as rewarding as the work itself.
Kaleigh, a family match English tutor and office volunteer, and Ben, a one-to-one civics tutor, have been volunteering with New American Pathways for over six months, despite living in Clemson, South Carolina. Twice a week, Kaleigh makes the four-hour round trip drive to our offices to volunteer. On Saturdays, her husband Ben accompanies her.
When they come together, they use the drive to catch up on their week (and NPR podcasts) and to just have some quiet time together. The two often use the drive home to discuss the work they’ve just done – and plan for a chance to cook new foods they’ve learned about from their new friends.
Kaleigh and Ben are both part of a relatively new set of volunteers here at New American Pathways – family match volunteers. Kaleigh works with a small group of Somali women, helping to tutor them in English as a Second Language on Saturday mornings.
Ben works one-on-one with an Eritrean man who is studying civics for his Citizenship test. His time is devoted solely to this new friend, who is improving his knowledge quickly.
Both Kaleigh and Ben feel they get as much out of the pairing as their matches. Not only have they learned new foods and recipes that they’ve tried out at home – with no “out-and-out failures” as Kaleigh puts it – but Kaleigh is slowly working on learning some Somali.
“They like it when I try to speak Somali, it makes them more confident,” she says, laughing.
Kaleigh has also begun to pioneer a brand new realm of volunteering – grocery shopping for new arrivals. With her interest in learning new recipes and international food growing, this has been a great chance to learn more about the ingredients she would need to recreate the food at home.
On Tuesdays, Kaleigh returns to the office to assist the Resettlement team in their daily duties – from welcoming new arrivals at cultural orientation to filing to setting up apartments.
“Being a part of the team that welcomes them to the U.S. – that’s what I really like,” says Kaleigh.
But the highlight is the grocery shopping. Kaleigh knows that every time she goes out and helps to fill the pantry of a new arrival or to set up an apartment, a new refugee will be that much less homesick or stressed.
“I like knowing that the work I’m doing makes it easier for them when they get here,” Kaleigh says. “I helped make their transition a little easier. It really is fun.”
Interested in becoming a family match volunteer? Contact volunteer engagement at firstname.lastname@example.org.