Creating Loving Bonds
Volunteering with LSI’s Refugee Community Services
Two years ago, Margaret Skoog’s life was shaken to its core.
Her husband and best friend, Ulf, passed away and she was looking for anything she could do to help her cope with the loss.
That’s when she decided she wanted to give back and dedicate her time to improving her community.
But at 89 years old, her volunteering options were limited. She wasn’t sure how she could help until one day, while at church, she saw a group of farmers walking out to her church’s community garden.
After asking about the group, she learned they were clients in LSI’s Refugee Services program. She decided to research the service line, and quickly found out there was a need for volunteers in the Elderly Refugee ESL program.
Once she researched the program, Margaret was heart-set on lending a hand – and she did. Every week for the past year, she has helped dozens of students learn English.
“All I needed was to visit a few times, and the sadness left for me,” she says.
Before moving to Des Moines, Margaret had worked as a nurse for 50 years, and she occasionally volunteered in the school her son attended.
Now, every Monday and Wednesday morning, Margaret travels to LSI’s Des Moines campus to meet with clients over the age of 60 and teach them new English lessons.
“They are really here to learn, I love working with each of them,” she says. “If I give anyone homework, every time, it comes back all finished. If I even send someone home with a pencil to do their homework, that pencil comes back. They’re just so eager and passionate.”
Margaret often spends the morning teaching students new letters of the English alphabet, or skills like how to count or identify colors in English. For most lessons, Margaret tries to find a new game for the class to play.
Margaret may teach her students, but she has also learned a great deal from them in return. Many students in her class farmed in their home country, and they are eager to show her new fruits and vegetables they have started growing in the U.S.
“I love learning about all these new foods,” Margaret says with a laugh. “They showed me this long string bean I’d never heard about before and it’s just wonderful.”
In the process, she’s created loving bonds with the students she teaches. Her apartment is decorated with photos and mementos from students.
But volunteering for LSI has not only given Margaret new friendships. It’s given her a new passion.
“It really makes me realize that I have nothing to complain about. They are so thankful for everything LSI is doing for them,” she says. “We need to give of ourselves when we have time, all to make life better for others.”