SPOKANE, Wash. — Young refugees are learning to read but Spokane volunteers said they are the ones receiving the real gift.
Every Wednesday up to 30 young refugee children sit down with a group of volunteers from First Presbyterian Church and the surrounding community for a summer reading session, thanks to a partnership with World Relief Spokane.
The children come from many different countries and some have had to flee dangerous situations. Now they are safe and their goals are to learn to read and speak English.
Sawlin Aung, 6, is a refugee from Malaysia. He and many other children meet with the volunteers every week.
Sawlin said his favorite part is "reading books with my friend." Volunteer Ross Carper also enjoys spending time with Sawlin.
"We have just developed this real friendship and really enjoy hanging out with kids," Carper said. "Who wouldn't love doing this? It's so rewarding and fun to just spend time and develop relationships and just be a positive mentor."
Through the reading sessions, kids like Sawlin are learning the fundamentals.
"In the summer, a lot of those ELL (English Language Learners) kids don't get as much English practice and reading practice as they would during the school year," Carper said. "It's a great way to develop a love for books."
"My favorite animal in this book was this one," Sawlin said as he sat next to Carper. "It's the kitten one. I like dogs and now I changed my mind to kittens."
Carper said the children are giving just as much as they are receiving.
"When you give some of your time, you end up receiving so much," Carper said. "It's so rewarding just to help kids take even just one baby step towards being a better reader or better speaker."
About 12 volunteers work with the children every week. This is the program's third summer.
To find out more about this program or how you can volunteer, call World Relief Spokane at (509) 484-9829 or First Presbyterian Church of Spokane at (509) 747-1058.