For the past two months, I’ve spent my time volunteering at the Southside Workers Center in Tucson. The workers center is a center that provides workers — many who are undocumented — an opportunity to receive a living wage, while providing workshops to the workers in themes such as wage theft (a problem that occurs frequently with undocumented workers), safety training, etc. One downside with the workers center is that there just isn’t enough people or volunteers — there’s only one paid employee who has to run everything around the center and make sure everything is in order. While Garrett and I participated in some of these workshops around the center, our main focus was teaching an English class for the workers, promoting the center by canvassing around the neighborhood, and creating new long lasting resources for the center, such as creating databases and updating the center’s website.
The thing I liked most about working at the center was building relationships with the workers. A big part of building these relationships with them was teaching them English. Even though these classes were only twice a week for an hour each, the time spent with the workers was fun and special. Although these classes were extremely fun, it was difficult at first knowing how and what to teach them because so many of the workers spoke and wrote at different levels of English. Another issue that I experienced at first was knowing my comfort level of talking and teaching the workers. The majority of the workers are nearly twice my age, and it felt weird teaching them because I felt I was lecturing them more than talking with them about how to say certain phrases and words in English. I’d never been in a position before where I taught in front of an audience that was significantly older than me. After the first couple of classes, the teaching became more relaxed, the workers opened up more, and the class became less structured. In the end, I loved teaching English to the workers because there was always laughter and happiness during class time, and the workers were so eager to go to English class.
What I’m most going to take away during my time working for the Southside Workers Center is the experiences I had when talking to the workers. Most of the workers I talked to are undocumented, and they’ve told me their hardships of leaving their home countries and living in the United States. Even though they told me their stories of their hardships, I can never fully comprehend and grasp the intensity of the struggle they had to endure to make it here. Listening to their stories was both heartbreaking and inspiring. Having to leave everything behind to hopefully find a better life in the US is something I don’t think I can do, yet so many workers and people have to do it everyday. Despite everything the workers had to go through, they were always telling jokes, smiling, and laughing; seeing them being happy gives me so much hope.