When Esperanza House came to Auburn in the fall of 2015, no one expected it to grow as big as it has today. With over 25 kids participating now, Esperanza House runs like a well-oiled tutoring program where children from Spanish backgrounds can seek help with school from student volunteers.
“When I started, there were about 10 kids. I didn’t really think that it would get this big. I didn’t realize there were that many Spanish-speaking children in the community,” Sarah said.
Connecting with Ms. Odalys, Esperanza House founder, through her church at a women’s retreat, Sarah immediately became involved.
“One of my pastor’s connected me with her because they knew I spoke Spanish and they knew she needed help. So, I got her phone number and we’ve been working together ever since,” Sarah said.
After that, the program took off as volunteers started coming together.
“I had a friend named Sarah Colvin and she was involved with it. Towards the end of the school year she let me know how it all worked. They had a summer program where they gave the families lunch once a week so I did that in the summer and have continued with tutoring throughout the school year,” Abby Gosdin, Auburn senior in biomedical sciences and Spanish, said.
Both Sarah and Abby agree that the smiles and laughter that the kids bring to each tutoring session is their favorite part.
“Seeing the breakthroughs that the children have and the joy they bring. They’re just happy to be there and learn,” Abby said.
Though there are challenges, whether that’s through language barriers or trying to explain math in a way that is easy to understand, the volunteers say the children make it all worthwhile.
“I remember meeting Beverly on her first day at tutoring. She’d only been in America for two days and she didn’t know any English. She didn’t know the work that she was looking at and I think she was just relieved to have someone that spoke Spanish to her that wasn’t already from a Spanish-speaking country. I was someone who was going to meet her where she was at,” Sarah said.
With events like the All Saints’ Day celebration at Lakeview Baptist Church where the children traded their homework for Halloween costumes or the upcoming Thanksgiving dinner they’ll have before the break, the kids can be a part of something special. Those are where the memorable moments come from, Abby said.
“In general, it’s whenever the girl I tutor, Merly, remembers something that we talked about the last time we were in tutoring. For instance, if she remembers letter sounds. That always makes me happy,” Abby said.
Meeting every Tuesday and Thursday at the Auburn Public Library, the bond and friendship that forms between volunteers and kids is nothing short of magical. Though from different countries, the volunteers learn that they and the kids aren’t so different.
“I’ve learned that you can find someone like Damaris (a child of Esperanza House) who reminds me of someone in my family, but they have absolutely nothing really in common. I think it’s interesting how you can have people who are exactly the same, but have no experiences in common,” Sarah said.