Heather's Story: Engage

“I love teaching kids and seeing them learn things for the first time,” said Heather Von Tobel. “I am a stay at home mom, but before I had kids, I was an elementary school teacher for 8 years. I taught in low-income areas, and because I started my teaching career in Phoenix, Arizona, I soon developed a love for my Hispanic students.”

“I had heard of the Compass International Family Center ministry through Calvary. I wanted to get involved in some aspect of the community, so I thought I’d check it out. That was three years ago.”

“One of the things that shocked me was how many international families live in the Valparaiso area. I had been in a ‘bubble’ – my neighborhood, the kids’ schools, and church all consisted of the same demographic. Compass services families from over 35 countries, and 15 languages are spoken in the group! In Valpo! I felt so compelled to get out of my comfortable ‘community’ and to give myself and my children the opportunity to love on other cultures and people who don’t always look or talk like us.”

“There are many ways to get involved at Compass! Volunteers can serve where they are most comfortable. The adults who come to Compass can receive language support, help with completing their GED, assistance in applying for citizenship, cultural support, and even get help with job interviews/résumés. There is a main teacher in every area, so volunteers help with answering questions and providing conversation for those who need practice with their English.”

“While parents are being provided with these services, their children are receiving help with homework and light tutoring. Volunteers pair up with 1-2 children and assist them in the things their parents are unable to help with because of their language deficiencies.”  

“Relationships develop quickly and the students start to feel comfortable to share about their day, their family, and their school. The first couple of years, I worked with a group of first and second grade girls. We talked through how to handle girl drama and how to respect a teacher, even if you don’t love the way they teach. Although those girls have moved on to the older class, I still see them weekly and am able to give them hugs and ask them how they are doing. I’m currently working with a group of first grade boys, which my own son is able to join.  He’s made friends with these boys, and I’ve loved seeing him exposed to different cultures. Of course, they are 6-year-old boys so they’re silly and full of energy, but they look forward to having us there and we have a lot of fun.” 

“I have had the opportunity to get involved in people’s lives in the Valparaiso community – lives that I wouldn’t be able to touch were it not for Compass. Being part of Compass has brought a greater awareness of our community and our world for not only myself but also for my family. My boys are able to come and make friends with children from other cultures. They get the opportunity to see me serving, which I pray will cause them to want to have a servant heart when they are older. Compass doesn’t feel like something I have to do. It’s something I want to do…and I’ve been blessed because of it.”

Heather has discovered how much her community – and her joy – grows when she engages with others. You can too. See Serving Opportunities on the next page for ways you can be part of the Compass family. And Compass International Family Center is just one of several local organizations Calvary partners with to care for our community and its people. Pick a partner and go serve! Visit calvaryweb.net/local-outreach.

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