By Kanwal Hooda, PAIR Summer Program Manager
PAIR is a partnership: a partnership between the entire community and our enthusiastic team and a partnership between young refugees and our many volunteers. Together we partner to overcome the adversities of adjustment and create hope for a better future. This summer I have been blessed with the opportunity to join this partnership in my capacity as one of the program managers for PAIR’s Global Learners summer program. At the beginning of my internship, I arrived at work expecting to create some program activities, enjoy my summer days being a kid with other kids, and pick up some tips about how a non-profit works. PAIR, however, had bigger plans for me.
Within the first two days of my internship, I found myself not only creating activities but helping to design an entire curriculum with an experienced co-program manager. Instead of picking up minimal tips about non-profit work, I learned valuable lessons about making reservations, formulating emails, budgeting expenditures and expanding my knowledge base beyond my imagination.
Outside of the office at our program site, the time I spent with the PAIR students became the highlight of my days. Each day, a new highlight awaited me:
During our outreach efforts to enroll students, we didn’t always have students’ current addresses because their families often move from the first apartment where they are placed by resettlement agencies. However, we didn’t have to worry about anything with our student Masego* at the apartments to lead the way. Not only did he guide us to all the apartments where PAIR students had moved, he also helped translate our reason for visiting to the parents whose children were not home. While there were some students that we couldn’t find despite his help, he promised to track them down and bring them to program. No wonder we had twice the number of students show up than expected on the first day!
Another day after program sessions began, we were making flags representing the country with which we most identify (which is not necessarily the country where one was born or raised for the refugee population). One of our students, Alan, was discouraged by another student’s lack of interest in his flag. Immediately Prateeb, one of our youngest students, noticed Alan’s missing smile and asked him to explain his flag to him instead. Prateeb had been sitting at the same table as Alan for the entire afternoon and had already heard Alan explain his flag multiple times. Yet, when he knew Alan needed cheering up, it didn’t matter how many times he had already heard the explanation. He had just become friends with Alan that very morning, yet he exhibited such sensitivity and kindness.
Another program day, all the kids were busy preparing their Bingo sheets with the theme of the day, internet safety. Young Anamika was trying to keep up with the faster-writing older kids around her. Ayodele, another member of Anamika’s group, had already finished his bingo sheet and was excited to begin the bingo activity. The following conversation ensued:
Ayodele (to me): When can we start, Miss?
Me: As soon as everyone is done. Look, Anamika is still working on her bingo sheet.
Ayodele (without any hostility or sarcasm): Why is she writing so slowly?
Me: She is the youngest one here. She needs more time and help.
Ayodele: She needs help? I can help her!
And with that he got up from his seat and moved to the seat next to Anamika to help her finish her Bingo sheet.
I am only halfway through my summer internship with PAIR. Tons more planning, executing and frolicking with the kids and their beautiful smiles awaits me and my team and I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks have to offer me in partnership with PAIR.
*PAIR uses pseudonyms to protect the identity of our students.