Church Organizes Pandemic Tutoring Program

Source: Presbyterian Mission

When it came time to minister to the families of recent asylees from Central America, it turns out a global pandemic was no match for the 60 or so members and friends of Beechmont Presbyterian Church of Louisville, Kentucky, a church on a mission committed to serving others.

From the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of at least 15 has been volunteering to work with immigrant children to help boost the non-traditional instruction they were receiving from their teachers after classes went virtual. The program was spurred on by Rev. Debbie Braaksma, a retired missionary who worked with the Presbyterian World Mission as the Africa area coordinator.

Inspired by a weekly podcast of the podcast Between Two Pulpits, Beechmont wanted to be a church that reflected the diversity of its community. Assisted by Rev. Elmer Zavala, the church organized an aid program to assist Honduran refugees seeking asylum in the United States.

Establishing The Learning Hub, an academic enrichment program for children open five days per week and seven hours a day.

“We said, ‘This is an essential service. We aren’t vaccinated, but we are going to make sure these kids will receive academic, social and spiritual support — and just have fun together,’” Braaksma said.

As the number of COVID-19 cases have decreased, the program now serves only 20 children three hours per day after school Monday through Thursday. During the height of the pandemic, The Learning Hub could see as many as 40 children a day.

Led by an all voluntary staff, the center was awarded a grant from the PC(USA)’s Educate a Child, Transform the World program that will help provide compensation to workers.

Braaksma said, “It’s pretty much an all-voluntary staff, but we have transportation, snack and program expense needs. I worked with that program internally for many years. It’s nice to do the work on both sides of the water.”

She continued that many families with whom volunteers work “have gone through a brutal asylum experience. They are really in survival mode. They have to be. Many were marginalized in their own society and cheated out of a good education.”

The Learning Hub is hoping to change that.

“I still believe in global connections,” Braaksma said. “My hope is we have good partnerships cross-culturally and look to our neighbors. Let’s make the road by walking and by serving our neighborhoods too.”

Source: Presbyterian Mission