The Justice Conference Memphis is coming up on February 21-22 in Seabrook Hall. We will have a variety of exhibitors from local organizations to share about their engagement with justice issues in our city and about how you can join with them and support them in their work.
You can find out more information and register online at cumcmemphis.org/justice.
Two and a half years ago, Christ Church member Lucas Parris saw an announcement in the bulletin about a serving opportunity to teach computer skills to refugee adults at the Refugee Empowerment Program. “I’m in front of a computer all day at work,” he thought. So it seemed like it could be a good fit.
After discussing the opportunity with church member Abbye Pates, who then worked in missions, Lucas began spending one night a week working through computer skills exercises with adults who already had gained a solid grasp of the English language. Many of these refugees had gone through the ESL training that REP offers.
It didn’t take long for Lucas to realize how vital these basic computer skills are for anyone wanting to make real progress, such as securing a job. Those who go without the help needed to acquire these skills are at a severe disadvantage.
Aside from the computer skills training, REP also connects tutors with refugees to assist them with a range of subjects.
After spending six months helping with the computer skills training, for the next two years Lucas focused on teaching math skills to those that were preparing to test for their GED. The first person to earn his GED through REP, in fact, had spent some time with Lucas.
Many times Lucas had to begin with leading his students through basic arithmetic. Though it required arduous work by the students and patience on Lucas’s part, the real treat was that what he was helping them learn was so relevant to everyday life! Once a tutoring session came to a close, the student could use those skills that very day!
For example, one goes to the grocery store and sees that bananas are 10% off–what does that mean? Or, how does getting change back after a purchase work?Lucas could teach math through scenarios that would actually play out in some way in real life, lessening the refugee’s dependence upon others and increasing their confidence.
Indeed, Lucas says, “It was these ‘lightbulb’ moments when someone understood a concept, and were even able to apply it, that were so satisfying.” It was small victories like helping their children with their homework, buying items at the store, and paying bills that were actually large steps for refugees, who had been so suddenly removed from their own culture and placed into one so different from the one they had always known.
Being able to see this success and watch their progress kept motivating Lucas to give of his time every week to help these refugees.
“But the really inspiring part,” says Lucas,” is that a lot of these students go to GED classes three or four nights a week at REP, working full-time with kids at home. I may think sometimes that I’m too busy for something, but they are always hungry to learn. If I were to say at a tutoring session that we would end a little early, they would look at me like I’m crazy! They would insist, ‘Let’s do more! We still have time and more things to learn.’ That inspired me as a teacher.”
Refugee Empowerment Program will be exhibiting at The Justice Conference Memphis, this Friday and Saturday (Feb 21-22) at the church. They would be glad to share with you about their work and you can become a part of it.
You can register for the conference at cumcmemphis.org/justice. We are offering a SPECIAL RATE FOR STUDENTS, and those who serve a VOLUNTEER shift at the event gain FREE ADMISSION to the rest of the conference.
For updates on how Christ Church members can become involved with REP, check out cumcmemphis.org/rep