Every Thursday morning I spend time at a local Junior High School, tutoring/mentoring immigrant students in an ESL class. I love this volunteer work--it keeps me in touch with the cross-cultural life that feels so comfortable to me. I never enter the school in fear, wondering if I will be able to help the student I work with or wondering if I will be able to communicate effectively. Like I said, it is a comfortable place for me as a TCA. I don't believe this is typical for Canadians who have not had any cross-cultural influence or experience.
I work one-on-one with the student that the teacher assigns to me. Often it's the same student but not always. Today was one of those times when I worked with a new student. This boy was from Seoul, Korea and had only been in this school for 2 weeks. I was asked to help him with the reading comprehension of a book the class was studying together. The teacher warned me that he was struggling but I had no idea to what extent until I tried to dialogue with him. He was shy and soft-spoken when he said anything at all. For much of our time together he said nothing and if I asked him questions he would stare blankly at the book or just look down. It was all so painful for him, like he was screaming inside to get out but living in this cold, foreign land was smothering him to death. I asked him if he missed his country, his family in Korea. He replied, "yes" very somberly. I wanted to hug him--to tell him I was sorry and that he would be okay--but will he be? Will he be strong enough to fight for identity? The only time his eyes brightened briefly was when I mentioned I had been to Seoul once, just for one night between plane transfers. I could tell he liked that but then the moment was gone. And then my time with him was done and I was gone.
As I walked to my car, I cried for him, my heart breaking. I felt his pain--the pain of the surreal, being surrounded by everything unfamiliar and missing home. And then I said a prayer for him, that God would meet him in his pain and give him comfort and hope. Because I know God cares and loves immigrant and TCK children.