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Eric Goldman: ESL volunteer inspired by refugees

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Every Tuesday, Eric Goldman volunteers to teach basic ESL classes at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Salt Lake City to a group of newly arrived refugees who have trouble access formal classes due to work schedules or want additional practice. Together, they discuss English basics: going over grammatical structures, practicing pronunciation, repeating vocabulary and answering students’ questions. More essential, the group works on conversations. Eric, a volunteer of warm wit and patience, sees his students as friends, not just refugees.

Eric Goldman, an ESL volunteer at the IRC in Salt Lake City, stands in the library after an ESL class.

"I just thoroughly love and enjoy working with [refugees] who are so interested and eager to learn." —Eric Goldman, a weekly ESL volunteer at the IRC in Salt Lake City

Photo: Kaya Hartley/IRC

“These people are just as intelligent and compassionate as anyone here in the States, but they are restrained and subjected to terrible conditions simply by the destiny of geography. They are refugees by no fault of their own,” Eric reflected during a recent interview. “I am constantly reinforced by the wonderful nature of so many people from other countries and cultures. I am reinforced by how much we are all enriched by having these folks in our community.”

Eric, born and raised in South Africa, arrived as an immigrant himself at 14-years old.

“I believe that experience has left me forever sensitive to and connected to immigrants, refugees and generally people who are ‘others.’ In a much less severe way than refugees, I have experienced some extent of not being part of the mainstream.”

Eric focused his career on education. First, he trained Peace Corps volunteers in Malawi, Swaziland, and Lesotho. Then, Eric worked with the Bureau of Population, Refugees, & Migration. He has focused his life to education, outreach and inclusion. When he moved to Salt Lake City in 2016, he sought opportunities to continue providing educational opportunities for displaced people. Eric soon began volunteering for the IRC by teaching ESL classes.

Through his volunteer work with the IRC, Goldman has learned more about the resilience, patience, and optimism of refugees: “I think—as many volunteers experience—we get more out of [volunteering] than the people we are serving. I just thoroughly love and enjoy working with these folks who are so interested and eager to learn. They are inspiring. One of the most amazing things about [refugees] is that, notwithstanding all that they have gone through, they retain their sense of humor. We have as much laughter every hour as we do discussing the present and past tense, so it's just a great way to spend time.”

We are continually grateful for the efforts to volunteers, like Eric, who continue to stand with refugees by volunteering their time and skills to ensure refugee families and individuals positively integrate into our community. Thank you, Eric!

Learn more about volunteering to teach ESL at the IRC in Salt Lake City by us at VolunteerSLC [at] rescue.org (subject: ESL%20Volunteer%20-%20Inquiry) .