Why I Give Back: Len
For the Giving Back issue of the Jewish Living Delaware Magazine, several of our volunteers reflected on why they give back and the impact that volunteering has had on them and the lives of those they serve. Len Dwares shares his thoughts below.
When JFS asked for volunteers to teach English to Ukrainian refugees I immediately thought of my grandfather operating a grocery store for about 50 years without speaking English fluently. He and about 95% of his customers spoke Yiddish. In fact, he kept all of his financial records in Yiddish. He didn’t need anything else.
I thought how many people in Wilmington speak and read Ukrainian? The language is different and the alphabet is much different. I thought that even though I have no formal educational training, I could help someone settle into Wilmington. I do have 22 years of experience as a professor at University of Delaware, teaching accounting, but it’s completely different than teach English and being an accountant for many years I didn’t even have to do a lesson plan.
I started by teaching my student the ABC’s. He is a very bright student and picked that up quickly. He reads very well, but in speaking with him he didn’t understand what he was reading so I decided to teach him every day things that would help him adjust. I began by teaching him street signs in English. They are similar to the ones in Ukraine but he has to learn them in English. I don’t know how much it helped, but he recently received his drivers license! And then I taught him every day things such as family names, clothes, schools, money, and other things he would see every day. He now has a job, and I hope I am helping him get through the early stages of his being in this country. I explained to him that English is very difficult and it takes a long time to learn it.
This program by JFS is something that my grandfather never had and maybe never needed. I think it is very important now.