GET TO KNOW OUR VOLUNTEERS!
After participating in PAIR programs, our volunteers increase their leadership and communication skills and their understanding of diverse cultures. Some of our volunteers have shared their experiences:
A graduate of Rice University, Komal began volunteering with PAIR during the Spring of 2012. She has a strong commitment to guiding migrant youth through their adjustment to American culture, a commitment inspired by her family's immigration to the US. While helping PAIR students as a mentor, she found that her own core values were strengthened through the relationships she forged with her mentees.
During her first two years volunteering in our Global Leaders program at Westbury High School, Komal mentored two incredibly vivacious and hardworking students. She was inspired by the girls' devotion to their families and by the tenacity with which they fulfilled household responsibilities such as taking care of their younger siblings, helping their parents learn English, and working after school. Komal was deeply moved by her mentees' conviction and perseverance and she was proud and excited to see them graduate high school and move on to four year colleges.
Now that she's completed college, Komal continues to mentor high school students through PAIR because, in her words:
"I was fortunate to be a part of PAIR, where working with the students was a constant reminder that academics are not the only important things in life. Moreover, the students that I worked with have positive attitudes and are always eager to learn. These are some of their qualities that I admire and hope to acquire. Thus, PAIR has truly been a valuable experience for me."
Valerie Hang began volunteering with PAIR in 2011, during her Freshman year at the University of Houston. Valerie got involved in PAIR's programs due to her passion for working with kids. Her father's extended family are Vietnamese refugees, and Valerie is passionate about making a difference in the lives of refugee youth. Valerie was active in our Learners and summer programs through 2012, and she became president of PAIR's chapter at UH her sophomore year. She was a strong advocate of PAIR's mission during her time in administration, and found the opportunity to leave her mark through the Clinton Global Initiative, an annual national conference for college students who have start-up ideas related to national issues rooted in their communities. Valerie traveled to the conference with two PAIR officers in 2012 and 2013 to present PAIR's initiative for our Global Explorers program.
Valerie was able to practice her passion for supporting youth through mentoring in PAIR's programs, leading group activities, and building her classroom skills in working with students. Valerie continued volunteering in our Explorers program and received her BA in Elementary Education in 2014. She immediately began her career as a 5th grade teacher in Fort Bend, and she cherishes her time with students where she can be an encouraging positive role model while building engaging curriculum for her reading, writing, and social studies classes. In Valerie's words,
"PAIR prepared me to teach youth who have trouble speaking English through patience and creativity in my approach to building curriculum and practicing lessons with students."
Jaclyn shares her story from a rural village in Morocco, where she is stationed as a Peace Corps member. Beginning in 2010, she was a volunteer in our middle school program, a coordinator for College Orientation Day, and an intern for a summer reading program.
First off, volunteering with PAIR gave me exposure to different cultures and the opportunity to work with youth and families from varying backgrounds. It helped me practice empathy in order to connect with the kids with whom I was working. We often hear about war and conflict on the news from a political perspective, but rarely do we engage in the human side of that story: how people were affected, where they are now, and the new lives they have had to start. PAIR prepared me for the kind of work that I do in Morocco, which emphasizes connecting with people of a different culture rather than just helping them.
Second, the lessons we taught in PAIR match up almost directly with what I teach in Morocco, including American customs and holidays, healthy lifestyles in topics such as exercise, hygiene, and anti-drug abuse, and life skills such as studying, goal-setting, and decision-making, etc. PAIR equipped me with the skills and experience necessary to enter Peace Corps with confidence in working with youth in a different kind of classroom culture. In addition, I already had a mental inventory of ideas and activities for the kids!
Unlike many other volunteer opportunities at Rice, PAIR helped me work on a more long-term basis so that I could watch the progress of the kids in my classroom over a semester or a year. That being said, when searching for post-graduate opportunities abroad, I decided I wanted to work with an organization whose mission was to make a sustainable impact on people or a community by working with them for more than just a few weeks or months.