Volunteers from Newman Catholic Center work in Charleston, abroad

Cassie Buchman, City Editor

Volunteers from the Newman Catholic Center work both in their communities and abroad to help all different kinds of people, from teaching immigrants English to sponsoring people with limited resources in Haiti.

Maggie Perry, a senior psychology major, tutors and mentors children with Newman’s after school program.

She is in charge of coordinating, scheduling, and making sure every child’s needs are met.

“I make sure the parent’s expectations are met and that every child and every volunteer gets a meaningful, memorable learning experience,” Perry said.

The first day of the program is one of the volunteers’ busiest.

“It can be very hectic at the beginning,” Perry said. “The tutors don’t know the kids; the kids don’t know the tutors, and we have to pair them up.”

Tutors and children are paired up so they can work one-on-one with different students.

The children whom volunteers work with come from schools around the area, such as Carl Sandburg, Charleston High School, and Jefferson Middle School.

A lot of children Perry and the other volunteers work with live in poverty.

“That’s why we’re a non-profit; children don’t pay,” Perry said.

The program does tutor children and help them with their homework, but that is not all they do.

“We help children with their self-esteem, eating habits and all of the negative things that come and are associated with poverty,” Perry said. “In short, we give them the attention they may be lacking at home.”

Volunteers even help children navigate the messages and influences they get from social media such as Facebook.

“There’s got to be a point when enough is enough, and you have to find out who you are without society’s expectations,” Perry said.

The after school program meets from 4 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

Perry remembers one student she worked with who she had a real connection with.

“I had a teenage girl, and we had a lot in common,” Perry said. “I saw myself in her.”

Perry and the girl were both freshmen at that point in their lives, with Perry being a college freshman and the girl just starting high school.

“We both bonded on that; we figured out life together,” Perry said. “We are still in communication. She’s a great kid.”

Seth Mowrer, a senior English major, helps tutor adult students of English in Newman Catholic Centers’ “Amigos and Friends” program. The “amigos” are the people learning English, and the “Friends” are the tutors.

“Many of the students come from Mexico with little to no educational background,” Mowrer said. “We have people that are in an uphill battle with English and education in general.”

Mowrer said he helped his student learn English by presenting her with higher-level materials then working her way down until he found what worked best.

One of his students has gotten up to a fifth grade English reading level.

“It’s really good for someone in their middle ages learning English,” Mowrer said.

Mowrer said a lot of people do not realize Charleston has an immigrant population.

The “Amigos and Friends Program” meets on at 10 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays.

One of Mowrer’s students is Vietnamese. He said he only knew four or five words in Vietnamese when he started to teach her.

To get over the language barrier, Mowrer worked on being welcoming and engaging, which he said helps people overcome the biggest enemy for learning English — a lack of confidence.

“A lot of the program is building confidence,” Mowrer said. “Just conversing and speaking in English, playing games, talking about our day.”

Students from the Newman Center volunteer do not only volunteer in the Charleston area.

Volunteers also participate in Alternative Spring Break by going to places such as Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana and Missouri.

Volunteers also do Haiti Connection where they help people in Haiti.

Roxanne Sorci, a junior psychology major, is the vice president of Haiti Connection.

“Our biggest sponsorship program helps three or four schools and helps kids who don’t have enough for education,” Sorci said.

Volunteers donate $30 and send letters to a child in Haiti. They can visit Haiti twice a year, in May and December.

Another program in Haiti Connection is Fon Koze, a women’s literacy program.

Fon Koze has helped about 250 adult women learn how to read and write.

Sorci said volunteering has made her be more grateful about her own life.

She said an instance occurred where a family someone was visiting in Haiti was embarrassed because they did not have a bed.

“I’m never hungry; I always have access to food,” Sorci said. “I’m grateful for being so blessed.”

 

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]