Philadelphia is a diverse city, with immigrants coming to settle here from Chile to China to every place in between. However, sometimes these immigrants need a little extra help acclimating themselves to their new home. That’s where Project SHINEcomes in.
Project SHINE (Students Helping in the Naturalization of Elders) is a volunteer program that pairs elderly immigrants up with college students, who tutor them in English, educate them about health care issues, help them integrate into the workforce, and generally give them the skills to adjust to life in the United States. Project SHINE began in Philadelphia through Temple University’s Intergenerational Centerin 1985, though it has now expanded to cities and colleges all over the country.
Immigrants living in Philadelphia come from a diverse range of countries and cultures, which is reflected in the large variety of community partner sites volunteers can choose to work at, each geared towards a specific immigrant community. These range from the Jaisohn Center, which primarily serves Korean immigrants, to the Golden Slipper Senior Center, which has mostly Russian immigrants.
While Project SHINE obviously provides invaluable services to immigrants, volunteers also find the experience extremely rewarding. Dhruti Patel, a Temple University student and Project SHINE volunteer at the Norris Squaresite, says that SHINE provides an excellent opportunity to serve the community and become immersed in another culture. Students can build strong relationships with the elders they teach and there is a lot they can learn about the immigrant and refugee lives.
She goes on to say that she has found personal satisfaction from Project SHINE, explaining that thanks to SHINE, I’ve been able to cultivate my interest in immigrant rights, learn more about different Hispanic cultures, and improve my Spanish…I’ve helped some elders study for their citizenship tests, and I’ve helped others communicate better with their doctors so they can receive proper treatment. One of my students told me that she was finally able to understand her grandson, who only spoke English, and she was thankful for SHINE volunteers. Seeing these things pan out, and hearing my elders appreciate the work I do, is very rewarding.
Project SHINE recently won an E Pluribus Unumprize from the Migration Policy Institute, recognizing the organization’s success in integrating immigrants into their new communities. While this national recognition is a great honor, it doesn’t mean that Project SHINE’s work is done. In fact, the organization is actively searching for new volunteers to continue its tradition of excellence.
Currently, Project SHINE is recruiting AmeriCorps members. This position, which lasts from September 2011 to May 2012, involves a 9-10 hour a week commitment plus monthly training. In return, you’ll get a $1,500 stipend and an $1,132 educational award, as well as the intangible benefit of knowing you made a difference in your community. In addition, there are semester long ESL tutoring programs and a work force program. Interested in volunteering? You can contact firstname.lastname@example.org apply.
You can contact Jordyn Kimelheim at JordynK91@gmail.com