Tawba Tutoring ⎟February 24 – March 31, 2020

February 24, 2020

Throughout the past three weeks, I have attended tutoring sessions at Tawba Islamic Center twice a week. I drive myself and other students on Tuesday nights from 6:00-7:00 pm and Sunday afternoons from 2:30-3:00. I was very nervous about this experience, because I had never interacted with Muslims before, and I knew they had etiquette to abide by. Looking at The Comparison Project’s website, I figured out to dress modestly and remove my shoes. 

Upon entering, there was a threshold where I was able to remove my shoes before entering the entirety of the building. I learned this act is due to ritual cleanliness, a foreign concept to me. While introducing myself to the adults, a little girl ran up to me and hugged me. All the children are very kind, but from what I’ve witnessed, it is difficult to wrangle them into a classroom. I don’t blame them, I’d rather play outside with my friends too. 

Each student has math and English packet, specified to their age and learning ability. I received a range of questions from counting to probability of pronunciation. Tawba Islamic Center is a richly diverse and contagiously joyful place to spend Sunday afternoons. Sundays tend to be the busier day, with 20-30 children attending. Children bouncing off the walls, pounding the window from outside, playful shrieking, and sweet goodbye hugs were all included within an hour of my time. As I left, the adults struggled to round up the rambunctious youngsters to prepare for prayer. 

March 31, 2020

I volunteered at Tawba Islamic Center about twice a week for two months. I would have continued after spring break to add on another month, but unfortunately due to circumstances out of our control, these tutoring sessions have come to a halt. I am disappointed in not being able to finish out the semester doing this because more than helping me get hours for class, I genuinely enjoyed the experience. 

To summarize the past two months at Tawba, my experience was wonderful. Beyond simply answering questions of math and English, I got to know several of the children. Most days there were 1-2 other volunteers with me, but on the days when I was the only one were the times I learned the most. Being on your own with a room full of children aging 5-18, it truly challenges your patience and ability to interact with them. With that being said, I never ran out of patience. This is because not only the fondness the children show me, but the appreciation from the parents. 

When you leave Tawba Islamic Center, all the parents in the building will express their gratitude in thanks. A particularly interesting experience was when a mother was asking another volunteer for help with her own math. I thought this was really important to observe how the parents not only emphasized their own children’s education but their own. The leaders at Tawba exemplified the same idea, they gave me and a few other volunteers packets about their religion, beliefs, and values. 

Overall, this experience is one I would do all over again, and plan to continue tutoring next semester if possible. It taught me so much about being patient, open-minded, and being curious about people different from me. I encourage everyone to try putting themselves in situations they would previously not have available to them, in just an hour you can learn so much. Even if you are nervous about trying something new like me, all you have to do is try and you will be hooked. 

Ella Stafford
First-Year Religions of Des Moines Student

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