Tutoring Somali Refugees: Des Moines, IA
In the fall of 2016, the Iowa State Talent Director sought the help of SSIO members of the Des Moines Sai Center to tutor some local Somali refugee children. The children, who face many challenges in navigating a new country and learning a new language, often lag academically. Most quit before completing high school, leaving them little prospect of finding a decent-paying job. The Director felt graduation from high school would change their lives, substantially improve their family living conditions and motivate the community to give priority to their children education.
The Des Moines Sai Center members thought this was a God-sent opportunity to make a difference in the lives of these refugee children. In the fall of 2016, six Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) Group 4 students, aged 15 to 18 years, and four adults began tutoring 10 middle and high school students, every Sunday for an hour in a small mosque near downtown Des Moines. The session usually begins with a Somali student reciting a short prayer from the Quran. The mentors assist the students with their homework and focus on building their skills in Math and English, using worksheets and resources from the internet. This year, the tutoring program was expanded to include five elementary children.
The Somali parents are immensely grateful to hear of their children’s progress at school. Abdi, the Somali head priest expressed his ardent hope that the children will see their mentors as role models to emulate. The Somali children also shared that the tutoring sessions were helpful in helping remediate gaps in their learning, and understand the concepts at a deeper level.
The SSE Group 4 students expressed the many benefits of participating in the tutoring program. By teaching, they have strengthened their own understanding of math concepts and gained confidence in their ability to communicate. They have also developed greater patience and creative ways of teaching to help their tutees understand. More importantly, the mentors enjoy the relationships they have built with their tutees. They feel responsible for their tutee's academic progress and are gratified to know they are making a difference in their lives. Despite their busy schedule, the SSE students have shown commitment, dedication and patience in their continued weekly service to the refugee children.