Engaging Youth at SON Ministries
By: Alison Rooney
Last year at our Family ESOL/KIDS Club Program, there was a teen male recently arrived from Syria who was his parents’ ride to the English class. His younger sister was also enrolled in our children’s recreation and academic support program. While he was waiting on his family one evening, I introduced myself and asked M. if he would like to volunteer (“help”) the children in our program by playing with them/supervising them in a fun gym setting. He wasn’t sure but agreed to try it. From that night on, M. volunteered faithfully two nights a week for the school year – as he began to learn English and attend high school daily. He played soccer with the children and overall seemed very happy to be part of this “community” made up of children and families from 36 different countries and the US-born staff and volunteers.
In May, the week before our program ended for the summer, M. arrived to the church with another teenage boy. I asked who his friend was and he replied, “He’s not my friend. He just moved in the apartment four doors down. He arrived last week from Iraq. I told him he should come here to meet these people”. I was blown away – that a teenage Moslem boy would come to the church, to our program, within a week of his arrival to this country – all on the word of another teen Moslem boy he had just met. I thought, “This young man arrived just days ago, knows no English and knows few people, I am sure. Yet he came here – he was told to come here to this church, to this program, to have some fun… to be a kid, to be part of something. ” I asked A. if he liked soccer, and when M. translated for me, the young man nodded profusely and smiled brightly. I charged M. with his companion for the evening – asked him to go over the basic rules of our program and to please tell him to have a great time. A. thanked me with a nod (or like a little bow) of his head and a look of relief and off he went – the two young men walking quickly and with purpose to the gym to play…
Last night, night two of our program for this year, and nearly four months later, M. and A. arrived together again, greeted me with lots of smiles and noticeably more English words than in the spring. They signed in as teen volunteers, made their name badges, and walked briskly and with purpose off to the gym to play…
At SON Ministries,
We see the DIVINE in each person: each has a purpose and a voice.
We bring HOPE to children and families in need by connecting them to people, resources, and a hand up.
We build up COMMUNITY one respectful, empowering relationship at a time.