Anyone who has traveled in a foreign country knows the vulnerable, isolated feeling that comes when you are surrounded by people speaking a language you don't understand. Imagine experiencing that feeling every day -- at work, at the grocery store, in the post office.
"It's important to know the language of the community where you live," said Cody Reed, bilingual cultural mediator for the Social and Emotional Early Childhood Development Project at Steamboat Mental Health. "If there is a language barrier, it makes it hard to integrate into the community or to feel like you belong.
"Instead, you tend to seek out those people you can communicate with, and (you) don't necessarily contribute to the larger community."
To help the ever-increasing number of immigrants learn English, a new group called Comunidad Integrada, organized by Reed and Summer Laws, is looking for volunteers to provide flexible, in-home English classes. Students will pay $20 for the three months of classes to cover the cost of training volunteers.
Volunteers will be asked to give 1 1/2 hours a week to tutor immigrants from countries as diverse as Mexico, Mongolia and Mauritania.
Volunteers will be paired with one person for a three-month period depending on their needs, language proficiency and schedules. The volunteer commitment is for three months -- January through March.
Teaching experience is not necessary, "only a desire to help," Reed said.
Many of the people who cannot make it to the Colorado Mountain College's ESL classes are mothers who cannot leave their children at home and people who work night shifts.
Having volunteer tutors will allow those people to pursue their desire to integrate into the community through flexible English classes.
"There is a large population of people who aren't being serviced by the classes at CMC," Reed said. "This is our attempt to reach out to those people. Just because you aren't free in the evening doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to learn English."
There will be a training for people interested in volunteering to give English lessons from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday in Yampa Valley Medical Center Conference Room No. 3. Look for a sign that says "Comunidad Integrada ESL Teacher Training." Anyone interested in attending should call Cody Reed at 879-2141 or Summer Laws at 846-5521.
-- To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org