I’ve been keeping an eye on possible volunteer opportuniites since moving here almost 3 months ago.
Like everything else in this metro area, there are lots of things to do; it’s all about learning about them and then deciding which to grab ahold of.
This past week I jumped in.
On Monday, MLK Jr. Day, which has been declared a day of volunteer service, I signed up on a Takoma Park-Silver Spring resident listserve to help with dinner at a service center near where I work. I ended up dishing out vegetables — first summer squash and zucchini and then, when they ran out, brussel sprouts, which were amazingly much more popular. The diners came into the mid-sized dining room with a ticket they dropped in a basket so that the staff could have an accurate count at the end of the night. They average about 140 a night, I was told, which means some turnover on the tables throughout the 1 1/2-hour meal time. Mirroring the demographics of the area, many of those coming in were Latino and I tried out a few Spanish words and phrases with some of them. At the end of the meal, staff and guests took down the tables and chairs and began setting out foam mattresses to turn the room into an overnight shelter.
Then on Thursday I went over to my new church and signed up to be an assistant in their evening ESL classes. While held twice a week, I committed myself to just once a week. I met a lovely Bangladeshi couple but most of the students are Spanish-speaking. I was told that many of them are undocumented and so ineligible for school-based or government-funded programs. That night was just registration — with about 140 students enrolled — and classes actually begin this coming week.
I start Spanish classes in a few weeks, so I’ll be able to practice my conversational skills with the students — not during classe, of course, when they’re supposed to only communicate in English.