In this week’s Volunteer Spotlight, we chatted with Samuel Zamora, whose bilingualism and passion for helping others contributes to the coordination of the English for Speakers of Other Language (ESOL) program. Read on to learn more about Sam’s work with A Faith That Does Justice.
How did you get involved with A Faith That Does Justice?
I went to a mass at Saint Cecelia’s Parish and heard Father Gyves speak. I signed up to learn more about the organization and then a couple months later I began working with the ESOL program. I started by reaching out to potential students and going to churches to get people signed up.
Tell us about your role.
My job is to communicate with the ESOL students – I am bilingual so that’s helpful. Sometimes my role goes beyond just delivering information about classes to potential students. I can speak the language and understand the culture, so I become a friend. Sometimes students share their hesitations about taking on this challenge and I help them through it. I remember one time a woman called me and was concerned about her ability to learn English. I had a simple conversation with her encouraging her to show up and give it her best. I think of it as putting a little bit of extra love into each encounter. When I talk to people, I try to let them know they should feel comfortable calling or texting me, that I’m here for them. I am a face, a voice that they can relate to because I can speak their language and I grew up in a Latin American country.
What other language do you speak?
Spanish is the language I feel most comfortable with currently.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Costa Rica. I was 18 when I moved to the US. I lived in a couple other places in the US before moving to Boston.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
It’s nice to work with communities that I identify with culturally. I didn’t grow up in the same situation that many of the immigrants grew up in, but I work in the restaurant business and many of my colleagues are Latin American immigrants who left their countries because of difficult situations. Working with A Faith That Does Justice reminds me of my colleagues at work and that feels special because I can identify with their situation. It means a lot to the people that sign up for the classes that they can get some guidance. They are going through a huge journey leaving their countries and they are trying to find some stability in a country with a different language and a different culture. They appreciate hearing their culture and language in my voice – it opens the door to a more comfortable conversation for them. I like that I can connect culturally with them.
Tell us about the students.
Most of the students have a very strong intention that comes from a history of leaving their country, leaving some type of struggle and looking for stability. This is a common characteristic among the students. They want to be self-sufficient and competent. Emotionally, they have been through a lot and it has long lasting impacts. Some of the students have been living in the US for years and don’t have English skills. This program means a lot to them.
Tell us one fact about yourself.
I love languages. I have a few languages that are available in my tool kit. I also love dancing and have a year left to finish my bachelor’s degree in contemporary dance performance at Boston Conservatory. And I am deeply in love with my birth country of Costa Rica.
You can learn more about our ESOL program on our blog here.