The last weekend of October, in order to make up for some extra volunteering hours, I helped out in the community in a couple of different ways. One of my favorite activities was Thursday night, when I attended parent-teacher conferences at Central High School to translate for Spanish-speaking parents.
Thursday night I was a little nervous- not necessarily in my speaking and understanding abilities, but I had never been to the high school and I was already a few minutes late! As soon as I got to Central, though, I felt much better. Everyone was very helpful in directing me where to go and I met several other U of I students who were volunteering as well. About half an hour into the evening, I met Marsela [not her real name], the woman who I helped for the rest of the night. We visited several classes and talked to several teachers- she has three children who are at Central! At first things were a little awkward, though I knew she appreciated my help. But later on Marsela had to tell me (so that the teachers could be informed) about some family difficulties that she and her children were having, which was leading to a lot of their problems in their classes.
Marsela was incredibly grateful for my help at the conferences, and not just because I was able to translate for her. To me it seemed like she was also grateful just to have someone to go with her to the conferences, to wait with her, to talk with her, and someone that she could explain what she and her family are going through right now- someone who would listen to her and be understanding without being judgmental. She is a single mother with [several] children and I like to think that she enjoyed having a little help for once, even if it was just at a parent-teacher conference.
Being at the conferences and talking with Marsela made me realize, again, how difficult it is to live here and to not be able to speak English. I was so glad to be able to help translate that evening, but Marsela probably doesn’t usually have help with the language most of the time. Especially when struggling with health issues, finding a job, and taking care of your family, being able to seek help and get advice from professionals is crucial, but it’s not always readily available if you don’t speak English. I had a great time getting to know Marsela and practicing my Spanish, and I hope to be able to use my knowledge of two languages in similar ways in the future.