English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) instructor Patricia Wilson began volunteering at Boca Helping Hands in 2014 after retiring from teaching 4th grade at Boca Raton Elementary School. Initially, she worked with clients in the BHH Resource Center who needed emergency financial assistance to pay their light, power and rent bills, but started teaching ESOL in 2017.
“We lived in Colorado, and when he became sick, he came to live with us,” she said. “He was a dear, sweet man but never learned to speak English, and I could only say hello and goodbye and count to three in Polish. I didn’t even know how to say I love you. My mom was so busy caring for him, she did not have the time or energy to teach me his language.”
She and her husband would travel in the summer, so she studied survival Spanish before visiting Spain and Italian before going to Italy. She had already studied French in high school.
The ESOL course goes hand-in-hand with Boca Helping Hands’ mentoring and job training programs, as language acquisition is a barrier to employment for many. South Florida is the gateway to the US for many South Americans and Haitians, who have been the most frequent class participants, but the class has also included Russian students and currently has a Vietnamese student.
To enroll, visit BocaHelpingHands.org/ESOL
About Boca Helping Hands
Boca Helping Hands (BHH) is a community-based nonprofit that provides food, medical and financial assistance to meet basic human needs as well as education, job training and guidance to create self-sufficiency. Through its various assistance programs, BHH supports over 27,000 people annually.
BHH distributes more than 80,000 pantry bags each year at four Palm Beach County locations and serves over 80,000 hot meals annually, six days per week. The organization expands access to affordable medical, dental and behavioral care through its partnership with Genesis Community Health, serving clients at clinics in Boca Raton and Boynton Beach. BHH sends weekend meals home with food-insecure elementary school students via the BHH Backpacks Program and assists working families with the rising cost of childcare through the Children’s Assistance Program (CAP).
With an increased focus on client self-sufficiency, BHH awards scholarships for qualified candidates to attend accredited vocational training classes that prepare them for careers in the healthcare, information technology and transportation industries. BHH also offers free English as a Second Language (ESOL) classes and courses in nutrition and other life skills. Staff and volunteer mentors counsel the unemployed and underemployed in basic workplace skills and help them polish resumes and search for jobs.
Charity Navigator named Boca Helping Hands a Four-Star Charity for the 14th consecutive year in April 2020. Boca Helping Hands is located at 1500 NW 1st Court, Boca Raton, FL 33432. For more information, please visit BocaHelpingHands.org.