by Charlotte Piwowar
More Spanish in the Community
Volunteering in the Learning Zone at Champaign Central High School has been a blast so far, but it’s not the only time I’ve been using Spanish. I never quite realized how big the Latino community is in Champaign-Urbana, and therefore the resulting need for Spanish speakers. The Spanish in the Community class has really opened up my eyes to this, and given me some additional opportunities to keep practicing Spanish.
A few weeks ago I went to the parent-teacher conferences at Champaign Central to serve as a translator. I was matched with a woman who had three students at the high school, and so stayed with her the entire night, going to different teachers for 15-minute meetings to discuss how her children were doing. It proved to be a very enjoyable experience! Not only did we talk during the conferences, but when there was some down time while waiting for a few teachers we chatted about our families, her experiences as a migrant, my life and goals, and shared a few laughs.
Another opportunity that I found was volunteering at the monthly Wesley food pantry (pictured above). While there, I served as a “shopper” for some of the Spanish-speaking clients. Shoppers walk through the food lines with the clients to help them select food that they would like to take home with them. For many people, it was their first time coming to the pantry, and so they were a little nervous or unsure of how it worked or what they should do. Having a smiling someone to walk through with them helped to put them at ease a bit more and make the experience both a positive and a social one.
Through both of these experiences, along with my weekly work at Champaign Central, I’ve really learned the importance of individual connections through service. Volunteering isn’t just a chance to do something good for the community, it’s an opportunity to share, to learn about myself, to meet new people, and to learn about their experiences—experiences which often times are very different from my own. While spending time at these one-day events doesn’t create any long-term relationships, hopefully it makes the task at hand a little more enjoyable and smooth for Spanish speakers in a predominantly English speaking place, while giving me a relaxing and pleasant way to spend an evening with a little bit of Spanish practice.