INSPIRED IMPACT™ is an ongoing blog series that gives voice to social entrepreneurs and leaders of purpose-driven organizations who are making an impact in their communities, industries, and around the world.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
San Diego Refugee Tutoring (SDRT) is a tutoring organization with a vision to achieve social justice through educational access for refugee students in San Diego. We provide one-on-one tutoring and holistic academic support, focusing on oral language, literacy development, and foundational math education. Tutors and students meet weekly every Tuesday and Thursday from 5–6:30 p.m. in the City Heights area of San Diego. Returning tutors are encouraged to work with the same students for consistency. Students are originally from various countries including Burma (Myanmar), Burundi, DR Congo, Nepal, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Mozambique, Ethiopia, and Eritrea.
WHY DO YOU DO IT?
In 2008, SDRT was formed out of a brainstorming session of teachers who saw the unmet needs of a growing refugee population in San Diego. Dealing with more than just an educational gap, teachers noticed a wide cultural gap that made it difficult for refugee students to keep up with their peers. Most students do not receive any additional instruction outside of school from someone who is fluent in English or assimilated to American culture since they often live in ethnic enclaves. Additionally, there are extremely limited after-school options for accessible tutoring or extracurricular activities.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
Stories such as Ruth’s describe not only the impact each volunteer is making, but also continues to drive and inspire our organization and group of devoted volunteers to continue to enrich our students’ lives through holistic educational support and advocacy. Ruth, a new tutor at SDRT, said, “I haven’t been tutoring very long, only since the beginning of this school year. I have been friends with a refugee family from Syria since they arrived two years ago, and I kept hearing the kids talk about “their tutors.” When asked, the children’s faces would light up as they animatedly regaled me with stories of their favorite tutors, games they played, and books they read together. It was obvious the impact these tutors were having. I finally decided to pursue it myself, and I can honestly say it has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.
“Every single week I am blown away by the amount of blood, sweat, tears, and love that go into this cooperative effort. To see these tutors drive from all corners of the county and come together to truly care about these children is awe-inspiring. And then there are the children themselves. Children from all over the globe, children who have seen and experienced things we can only imagine, children both wise beyond their years and yet still so full of innocence and a desire to grow. It can be overwhelming, the amount of need, and sometimes you wonder if you’re even making a dent… and then, a tiny little boy spots you in the crowd and gives you a grin of unbridled joy, his backpack nearly as big as he is, and even though he only began learning English one year ago, his determination is fierce, and you catch yourself having to blink back tears as you watch him sound out words on the never-ending homework in front of him.
“All most of these kids need is someone to pay attention to them, someone to tell them that they are doing a good job, and someone to believe in them. These are the kids most susceptible to falling through the cracks, and SDRT is doing everything in their power to be their safety net.”
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
Stories such as Ruth’s and the progress seen in our students’ lives– in literacy, math, and overall confidence–continue to inspire us.
WHAT’S YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
We desire each of our students to receive holistic educational support and desire to continue to enhance resources to allow them to thrive and flourish academically, socially, and emotionally.
WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THOSE DREAMS COME TRUE?
Continued support from volunteers, the community, and supporters of the organization can help build a sustainable organizational infrastructure to provide care for our students in areas of education, social and case management needs, translation, and enrichment activities.
WHAT IS (OR HAS BEEN) YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
As our organization has grown and as we have gotten to know our students and families better, the challenges identified to help our students grow and thrive require continued support, advocacy and committed staff.
WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
“…be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” – St. Peter
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
Please consider volunteering with our organization and supporting our organization financially. Please share our organization’s cause to those around you.
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