Giving + Learning = enrichmentFARGO - Giving+Learning remains true to its business name by giving a variety of people opportunities to learn from each other, mainly the English language.
By: Tirrell Thomas, The Forum, Worthington Daily Globe
FARGO - Giving+Learning remains true to its business name by giving a variety of people opportunities to learn from each other, mainly the English language.
The program has given more than 600 people from 42 countries the chance to share their stories, learn English and acclimate to U.S. customs, said Michele McRae, the director of Giving+Learning.
“We’ve got a leg up right away, you’ve got people that really want to improve their English,” McRae said.
The program hosted a five-day summer practice last week for new Americans at the Presentation Center of Fargo. The nonprofit organization has relied heavily on volunteers, McRae said.
They began by looking at retired people to volunteer since they tend to have more free time, McRae said.
Involving retired citizens also was a stipulation of the grant received from Catholic Health Initiatives, which has funded the program for the past seven years.
“The seniors here feel a great self-worth in helping provide mentoring opportunities to the new Americans,” said Jeff Pederson, the chief executive officer of Riverview Place, a retirement housing provider.
Riverview Place also houses the administrative offices of the Giving+Learning program and is part of the Catholic Health Initiative.
It’s also exposed volunteers to diversity and cultures they may not have engaged with, McRae said.
“I think we’ve got people that are in here, right now, mentoring that would have never met a person from another country – ever,” McRae said. “Especially in this part of the country – we’re pretty homogeneous.”
The program has evolved from its beginnings to where it’s now possible for individuals who come to the summer practices to obtain a drivers license, study to get their GED, or just socialize, said Rachel Mertz, volunteer coordinator at Giving+Learning.
“I’ve never stopped volunteering since I was 10,” Mertz said. “That just became one of my favorite things in life, working with people from other countries.”
At the end of the week, people were exchanging phone numbers and addresses, which Mertz hoped would happen.
The success of the program raised problems as well, Mertz said.
The capability to provide transportation for all the families and having the one-on-one learning, which is important to the individual’s success, has been a frustration, Mertz said.
Mentoring has not been confined to the summer program, Mertz said. After a program is done, the mentor and mentee will keep in contact.
“I just think the connections are good, I think you end up with something concrete – we stick with practicing English and it works,” McRae said.
McRae is a retired professor of English and French from Concordia College and Moorhead State University.
Grants may come from a religious sect but they don’t preach, Mertz said.
“We don’t promote any one religion, we just want to get people English help,” Mertz said.