by Caroline Moses
After retiring from my position as a High School Science teacher, I was keen to become involved in a practical way helping refugees, so in late 2016 I completed a brief training course with The Mercy Connect Project. This enabled me to act as a volunteer mentor to school students with an asylum seeker, refugee or humanitarian background. Volunteers complement the work of teachers by helping to build self-esteem and social skills, and by providing reading, writing and numeracy support, assisting comprehension, interpreting instructions and assisting with assignments.
From 2017 to the end of 2019, I spent 4 hours per week mentoring Iraqi students at Mary MacKillop College, Wakeley, in Western Sydney. I enjoyed this work very much but 3 years of travelling each week from Katoomba eventually resulted in me enquiring as to whether a similar position closer to home might be possible.
Mercy Connect approached several schools in the area and offered Katoomba PS as an option, mentoring Tibetan refugee students. Covid interrupted a proposed starting date in March 2020 when access to schools by visitors was denied.
In February this year, I was warmly welcomed by the school and met the two lovely students (one in Year 6 and one in year 3), whom I would be helping. After discussions with their teachers and establishing a relationship with each student, I was ready to begin. My Thursday morning routine usually includes helping my Year 6 student with reading, comprehension and mathematical problem-solving and my year 3 student with writing and computer skills. I work with the students within the classroom or in a room just outside the classroom, depending on their needs. When working within the classroom, I also occasionally give assistance to other students who may need it.
I’m sure there must be other schools in the Mountains that would appreciate volunteer help for their refugee students. Having a teaching background is desirable but not essential as training and ongoing assistance is provided. The next training session is planned for May.
If you are interested in this highly rewarding work, please contact Paul Taylor at Mercy Connect for more information. firstname.lastname@example.org