Tutoring refugee students in Atlanta, GA began in 2016 when Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) students at a local Sri Sathya Sai Center began assisting children of underserved areas with their homework at the Dogwood Public Library every Saturday. Sai volunteers provided lunch as many of the children faced food scarcity, living in a food desert, with no grocery store for miles. 

Unfortunately, due to Covid and library renovation, the program had to close down.

The program was revived in 2020 and transitioned to a virtual program, Schoolwork Assistance Initiative (SAI), with two kids, one of whom was the child of an Afghan refugee settler. Being impressed with the program, the Afghan mother spread the word to others in her community. The program has been steadily increasing, and currently has 30 tutors, comprising adults, young adults and Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) children. They serve 22 students, primarily Afghan refugee children, by providing weekly tutoring in Math, Science and Reading.

Project leader Srilatha commented, “Unintentionally, our program has become one primarily catering to children of refugee families. The biggest challenge we face is the language barrier in communicating with the families. Our Afghan liaison has helped us immensely in this respect.”

Sri Priya a volunteer who donated some of the computers and provides IT expertise said, “The other challenge was that these were large families living in a small area. Therefore, the kids were hit with bandwidth issues. To alleviate the problem, we had staggered classes. “

Srilatha summarized by saying, “The most important lesson we learned while working with the refugees, is that one must be very flexible and willing to adapt to new situations such as being creative to find engaging and fun ways of teaching. It requires a high level of patience and commitment. We cannot create a 'one size fits all' program.”

Please watch the video below for participants’ reflections of their experiences in tutoring Afghan refugee children, and how these experiences have impacted them.