‘This makes a difference in your life’

By Morgan McGrath Chelsae Poelking has been teaching English as a second language for the past two years, and every Tuesday night, she can be found in an Akron Crossings classroom, laughing with students as they collectively crack some jokes.  “God made all people valuable,” she said. “Everyone is valuable in his eyes, no matter where you’re from, or what you’ve been through. That’s why we want to love them [refugees] and help them have the best chance they have.” Poelking first fell in love with volunteering during a trip down south to Clarkston, Georgia, just a 20-minute drive outside...

Building communities across cultures

By Anthony Elder Cindy Mathias, member of Grace Church and volunteer for the International Welcome Center, noticed two newcomers –– both a bit nervous, even hesitant –– before a Sunday service in 2018. Those unfamiliar faces belonged to Congolese refugees, Jean and Joseph, both new to the United States, struggling to various degrees to communicate. Upon realizing their nationality, Mathias jumped to greet the young men. The Democratic Republic of Congo, once controlled by France, meant that the men surely knew some level of French (the country’s official language despite decades of independence). Mathias, a retired French teacher from Firestone...