VIDEO: Helping kids on a global scale

Published 10:11 am Wednesday, August 5, 2009

About 15 children sang “The Wheels on the Bus” Tuesday as Nancy Lopez and May Lai guided them in circle motions with their hands. Many were moving in the opposite direction. They might not have been synchronized, but they were excited to be there and sing the song as instructed.

“The Purple Group,” who have nicknamed themselves “The Purple Sponge Bobs,” are practicing for their stage debut Thursday at Riverland Community College.

The eighth year of Global Volunteers kicked off Monday in Austin. Global Volunteers is a Minnesota-based organization which provides volunteers for various projects in more than 20 countries around the world.

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Ten Global Volunteers from Minnesota, California, Florida, New York, Wisconsin, Washington and other states, as well as many community volunteers, are giving their time this week to work with English Language Learners who have completed grades 1-5.

Kristi Beckman, the educational director for Global Volunteers and the success coach at Neveln Elementary, said the program is a sort of “summer camp” for kids whose families often don’t speak English at home. They play games, sing songs and take walking tours to departments on campus like truck driving, nursing and law enforcement.

“Every kid who’s not in school during the summer … everyone tends to lose a little bit of what they’ve learned,” Beckman said.

The theme this year is “Be the Hero of Your Own Story,” so children are reading books about heroes. They are also practicing for their performances Thursday.

Volunteers arrived on Saturday and are working Monday through Friday. Kids begin each day at 8:30 a.m. and leave at 2:45 p.m.

“A lot of these kids are really excited about it,” Beckman said. “For a lot of them, it’s the only thing they do outside the home.”

Fifty-three ELL students from Austin are attending, as well as a group of students from Southland schools who speak only English.

“We wrote an integration grant to bring those kids over,” Beckman said.

The Hormel Foundation and the Early Riser Kiwanis donated funds for Global Volunteers, and Hormel Foods has provided lunch. The local Global Volunteers committee is co-chaired by Roger Boughton and Bonnie Rietz.