March Volunteers of the Month: Oak Grove United Methodist Church
In the 11 years Oak Grove United Methodist Church (OGUMC) has been serving alongside New American Pathways, their dedicated congregation has helped to welcome 16 refugee families to Atlanta through co-sponsorship.
Co-sponsorships are “official” for three months, but the friendships can last forever. In January 2015, to celebrate 10 years of service, Oak Grove welcomed their very first co-sponsored family – the Khashimov family – to come back to share their story. Ask our Oak Grove refugee champion Hank Woolard to name a family or two, and he can likely name every single family and family member he’s met since Day One and show you pictures from the various weddings and birthday parties he’s attended.
Sponsoring families isn’t even the only work Oak Grove does for the refugee community in Atlanta. In 2013, the congregation donated funds for materials to help launch our English at Home program – a program which now serves dozens of new Americans each year through one-to-one, in-home English tutoring.
Now, their efforts have come full circle, as a small group associated with OGUMC has decided not only to co-sponsor a family, but to serve in the fully-realized English at Home program as well. Danielle Veader, part of the OGUMC welcoming team, has begun teaching English to her co-sponsored family.
“The English at Home program has not only given me an opportunity to serve this family, but also to get to know them personally, and that has been a greater gift to me than possibly even to them,” she says.
Danielle says what she found most helpful in preparing to be a tutor was the detailed curriculum and available materials prepared for all volunteers.
“Having a curriculum helps me assess their progress each week and also helps me identify each of their needs for compression and speaking,” she states.
Seeing her family every week has helped build a closer bond than ever before with previous families, and the detailed curriculum is ensuring the family she serves knows how to help themselves when facing everyday tasks – like filling out forms, or learning American mannerisms.
While the church has always found unique ways for every member of their congregation to get involved – whether it is setting up the apartment, meeting the family at the airport, donating items for Secret Santa, or even just coming out to learn more about New American Pathways – English at Home helps to include more people, even younger family members.
Danielle’s young daughter attends every tutoring session and, while Danielle tutors, she has time to play with the refugee family’s child. While she may not be teaching English, the children are bonding and playing together – creating a long-lasting friendship of their own.