Published on April 13, 2018
Dauphine Sloan teaches International Development at Tulane University, which most often focuses on the developing world, but has also recently turned a lens to local development as well. Currently, one of her courses focuses on migrant refugees and development.
At Tulane, students’ curriculum has a service learning component that that requires them to complete a set number of service hours in order to graduate. Dauphine wanted to begin volunteering, too, but something always seemed to be in the way – she didn’t know how to get involved, she didn’t have the time, etc.
Last fall, Valerie Cesar, CCANO’s Refugee Services Community Outreach Coordinator, herself an alumna of Tulane, emailed Dauphine to see if she had any contacts who spoke Arabic, Farsi and a number of other languages.
While Dauphine didn’t know anyone with those skills, she finally saw her chance to serve!
In October of 2017, Dauphine was assigned to mentor a family who had recently arrived in New Orleans from Syria. The family, a married couple with two young daughters, spoke little to no English. In Syria, the father had been studying journalism. Here, he was lucky to quickly find work as a painter.
After they arrived, Dauphine took time to explore their new home with them; visiting the French Quarter, aquarium, zoo, bayous and other interesting spots.
Once a week, she meets with the family to address their needs, which include practicing their English, helping the girls with their homework, deciphering any mail they’ve received and a number of other tasks.
She also helps them navigate the healthcare system. Recently, the father was experiencing pain in his foot that was causing him to limp. Dauphine worked with him to get an MRI, go to the pharmacy and get the issue diagnosed and repaired.
While the family is struggling to continue adapting to their new home and a different way of life, Dauphine says they are making great strides – especially the young girls. They’re picking up English at an amazing pace. They’re even starting to act as interpreters for their mother, who is now expecting her third child!
“Almost every time I go there, there’s a tense atmosphere – a lot of anxiety, which is understandable. Just by talking to them for a few hours – which isn’t easy because I don’t speak their language and they don’t speak mine – all the tension is gone,” she said of her weekly visits to her mentee family.
Dauphine says her favorite part of mentoring this family has been becoming real friends with each of them. “I thought I’d learn about their culture and what they went through, but for that I think we need to continue to get to know each other better,” she shared.
The thing they need most to continue their progress, she says, is English as a Second Language (ESL) programs adapted to their native Arabic. In the meantime, she’s excited to continue mentoring this family to help them become self-sufficient and truly feel at home here in New Orleans.
Thank you for your service, Dauphine!