Noah Freundlich, a senior at Dartmouth College, is no stranger to the Upper Valley Haven as one of the leaders of Dartmouth Feeding Neighbors, a program that shares food with the community. But the pandemic made deliveries of food to the Haven’s Food Shelf quite a bit more complicated. It was on winter break this year that he started to think about his professors working with kids at home. The gears started turning, as he had done peer tutoring in high school. Noah thought, “Who needs help the most?” His answer led him to the kids in the Children’s After-School Program at the Haven, all of whom once lived in the Byrne House Family Shelter at the Haven.
After getting connected to Children’s Services, Noah recruited some friends to start offering Zoom tutoring sessions for the kids in the After-School Program. He has been tutoring one girl for an hour a week for the last two months; three of his friends are working with three other children.
Noah is the point person for setting up tutoring with the parents; he calls the parents to talk about what he and his classmates are offering and how the program will work remotely over Zoom. Noah recognized that it would be challenging for these parents to trust and feel comforted by someone from the community they didn’t know offering to tutor their children. It was a little awkward at first, but he knows how much harder the pandemic has made life for families that were already facing multiple challenges.
Once the tutors begin a relationship with the kids, he says it makes a “world of difference.” The participating students feel good about the undivided attention and support from their tutors. The one-on-one time is important with all the change throughout the last year.
Although COVID-19 required substantial changes to the Haven’s Children’s Services, we were able to operate a Summer Camp in 2020 and the After-School Program starting in September. We follow CDC guidelines for masks, hand washing and hygiene, and social distancing. This meant the programs had to be smaller due to space requirements, but the kids have had a great time, connecting with long-time mentors in the program and making many gains towards learning and development benchmarks. The program served 36 children through the Summer Program in three two-week sessions and expanded food home delivery services for families. Sixteen children are currently in the After-School Program, visiting Bev’s House for homework help and enriching activities each weekday afternoon.
Children’s Services Coordinator, Nancy McNally, shares, “Children’s Services at the Haven has a goal to teach, care, and build hope for the short time we have with our kids. We are so fortunate to have caring, compassionate community members like the Dartmouth College students who are volunteering their time to tutor our kids. In addition, the kids are baking with King Arthur, participating in arts lessons with the AVA Gallery and Art Center, doing workshops with Montshire Museum and VINS Nature Center, enjoying hot chocolate delivered by MOCO, and more. The community surrounding the Haven has provided amazing support and resources to our kids, which will help each child to be more confident, happy, independent, and resilient.”
Just as Children’s Services works to build resiliency in lives of kids who have experienced a lot of change, volunteers throughout the Upper Valley have shown that they are up for a challenge with non-traditional volunteer roles. We’re grateful to Noah and the growing team of tutors for thinking outside the box in support of our community, particularly those who need it most.