By Adrianna Nehme, Communications Assistant
Eliza Leal has always striven to be a lifelong volunteer. Throughout high school, she frequently volunteered at animal shelters and the local food bank, and during her junior year, she traveled to Peru with an organization called GlobeAware, to volunteer at a hostel in Cusco. Currently, she is part of a community service program called Sidekicks at her school, Colgate University. Her mother works as an ESL teacher in the Hoboken Public School District, and many of the students she works with come from marginalized communities and Eliza has helped her wherever she can, especially during this pandemic. She also has a younger brother whom she has tutored all her life — she’d like to think she was his first teacher.
Eliza first learned about FORA from her mother, who passed along information she had seen on Twitter about FORA’s remote volunteer opportunities for this summer. After researching the organization more, Eliza knew immediately that this was something she wanted to be part of. She admires FORA’s vision and values, and she believes there is a need for similar organizations across the United States. She believes that the challenges refugees face are often overlooked, which is disheartening to witness, so she hopes to apply what she is learning from FORA to her own community.
She also enjoys working with children because of their passion for learning. When she logs on to tutor, Eliza looks forward to seeing the excitement on the students’ faces, as she believes that they are so eager to learn and their smiles show it all. And she can already tell, from their willingness to learn and their openness with each other, that they are both making an impact on each other’s lives. So far, the highlight of her experience has been being able to share moments of laughter with the students, which she believes has a certain healing power to it.
When asked what recommendations she has for future FORA tutors, Eliza responded, “Always have patience and be mindful of how you teach. Frustrations will always lurk but do not let those frustrations overshadow your purpose of doing this. The child you are sharing your time with deserves this opportunity of education. The narrative so far of refugees living in the United States is filled with neglect on the part of the government and not being heard. By being part of this organization, you are becoming an agent of change in your own way and this is truly admirable.”