Abuela’s Wisdom Crosses Cultures

When 8-year-old “Enrique” confided to his 76-year-old African-American Foster Grandparent, Ms. Welch, that he had never seen or worked so closely with a Black person before, she made it her mission to extend herself to him in an extra-special way.

Enrique moved from Puerto Rico in 2017 after Hurricane Maria devastated his community. He could not speak any English and had trouble making friends at school, so his teacher paired him with Ms. Welch, a Catholic Social Services Foster Grandparent, for one-on-one tutoring and support. At first, Enrique and Ms. Welch communicated primarily through pictures and hand gestures. As the year progressed, the two grew close.

Over the course of the school year, Enrique became more proficient in English and began to open up to Ms. Welch about his personal background and his struggles adapting to his new school. Over time, Enrique shared about losing his grandmother and about fighting with other students because they bullied him. He told her he wanted to learn English and do better in school.

Ms. Welch encouraged Enrique to stop fighting and helped him focus on his education. This got Enrique to start thinking about different possible responses to the bullying he experienced; previously, he thought fighting people who bullied him was the only solution.

After several talks with Ms. Welch on the subject, Enrique began fighting less, and eventually he stopped getting into fights altogether. His English improved significantly as he developed into an avid reader. By the end of the school year, Enrique had gotten into the habit of calling Ms. Welch Abuela, which means grandmother in Spanish.

In her role as a Foster Grandparent, Ms. Welch spends each school day at Enrique’s school working one-on-one with students who need extra help. Teachers and Foster Grandparents alike have seen the powerful impact the program has on the students it serves, and the program benefits seniors like Ms. Welch as well. Through this stipended opportunity, low-income seniors can supplement their incomes while giving back to the community in a valuable way.

As the new school year approaches, Ms. Welch looks forward to returning to her role as a Foster Grandparent at Enrique’s school. She can’t wait to see the progress Enrique has made over the summer and is committed to helping him adapt to his new school and his new life in the States.

If you or someone you know would like to learn about how to become a Foster Grandparent, please contact our Program Director, Tameko Martin, at 614-857-1246

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