After a two-year stint teaching English to students in Jordan through the Peace Corps, Marlene and Dan Hovland realized that teaching ESL was in their bones.
Later when they moved to Willmar, their church was recruiting tutors to teach English to Somali adults. Marlene thought it would be a good fit.
“It’s like a continuation of the Peace Corps. It’s fulfilling to teach English and help improve their lives,” said Marlene.
Some of their students want to learn English so they can communicate with their kids’ teachers at conferences, some want to become citizens or are trying to get better paying jobs.
“I enjoy being with the Somali adults, they are very motivated and appreciative. I print a certificate once they finish a textbook, and they are usually pretty proud,” said Marlene. Marlene tutors a group of refugee students in conversational English at the Willmar Cultural Integration Center twice a week.
I do this because Jesus loves me.
“Through these relationships, we find good opportunities to share about the similarities and differences in our faiths. They will sometimes ask me, ‘Why are you doing this? Are you getting paid?’ And I will say, ‘I do this because Jesus loves me and I’m sharing his love with others.’ That satisfies them,” said Marlene.
For the past couple of years, Nathan has been connecting tutors with some of his Somali Adult Literacy Training (SALT) students to help them prepare for their citizenship tests. One of the main leaders in the Somali community in Willmar, Abdulahi passed his citizenship test after receiving tutoring from Nathan. “He called me and said ‘Teacher, I passed.’ It was a sweet and emotional moment. He took me out to dinner, and all of his friends came up to shake my hands,” said Nathan.
If you’d like to learn more about volunteering through Somali Adult Literacy Training (SALT), fill-out this SALT Interest Form.