As the IRC in Atlanta’s Adult Education team transitioned to virtual English as a Second Language (ESL) programming, they faced the challenge of reengaging with students who were previously enrolled in in-person classes. Initially, our passionate interns reached out to clients over the phone to encourage them to try Zoom classes. With little response, we asked our eager and dedicated volunteers to help. Our volunteers stepped up and started a letter writing project.
IRC volunteers—some long term and some newer—wrote handwritten notes to Adult Education students, inviting them back to class and expressing just how much they are missed. We sent out three rounds of letters and so far, seven students have joined our online classes due to these efforts. Below, some of our wonderful volunteers discuss the project; we are so grateful for their continued support.
“Writing to our students was a way to let them know that, despite the fact we could not be in a classroom together to teach/learn English, they were still part of the IRC community. We were still available to help them. We all experience some feelings of isolation because of the pandemic, but, in addition, our students may experience a feeling of alienation because of the actual political climate. I thought a letter would let them know they were not forgotten.” —Chantal Duggan
“As difficult as the pandemic has been for me, I found it hard to imagine what it would be like for some of the women I met in the First Things First English class—being new in a foreign country, already isolated, trying to understand and navigate a new, strange culture. Thinking of their isolation, my heart really goes out to all the students. Social interactions and making new friends is so important, especially in a new country. I also know how much I like getting actual physical letters in my mailbox! It means a lot when people reach out to let me know they are thinking of me. It makes me feel less alone to get cards in the mail. This was a fun and easy way to hopefully bring a smile to someone feeling scared of COVID and isolated at home—and to encourage them and connect them to the online English classes that definitely keep our ESL community connected during the pandemic.” —Cindia Cameron
“I really miss seeing our students face to face in class and was delighted to be able to reach out to them personally to remind them that we're here and continue to offer great learning opportunities.” —Ellen Heath
“Teaching our students for so many years, seeing them face to face every week is an experience and a reward that no other activity match. Thinking of them during these trying times and showing them that we care and want them to keep learning English inspired me to contact them. Even when not optimal, it is the best way to keep them, the volunteers and the IRC staff safe. Hope to be back soon to continue to teach in person and help this great organization.” —Andrea Baetti
“During the first few months of the pandemic, I was missing our IRC students so much and wanting to find out how I might help out beyond a few Zoom lessons and some monetary contributions. Being a hands-on people person who thrives on smiles and hugs, I was really missing those human connections. Writing these notes of encouragement and support (some to students I know and others that I hadn't met) filled that need in me and hopefully the recipients felt loved and encouraged and even learned a little English. I visualized their beautiful smiles. It felt wonderful!" —Susan Kann
To learn more about the work of the IRC in Atlanta and for information on how you can get involved with the IRC as a donor or volunteer, please contact Development Director, Marian Dickson, at Marian.Dickson [at] Rescue.org or 601-310-3174.