NORTHBROOK, IL (August 17, 2012) – Numerous children in a school in Taiwan have been learning English, thanks in part to a program at Covenant Village of Northbrook that made it financially possible for resident Robert Poor to put his education skills to good use and teach at a camp operated by a Taiwan Evangelical Covenant Church.
Travel can be expensive for volunteers like Poor, who retired following a 30-year career in education. The Covenant Passport program at Northbrook makes it possible for individuals like Poor to engage in mission and share their time and talents.
“Our goal is to ease the financial responsibility so residents can continue their philanthropic activities after they retire,” says Neil Warnygora, executive director. “Many folks who live here have a lifelong passion to serve. With the Covenant Passport program, we can waive a residents’ monthly service fee while they volunteer off campus for a non-profit organization. They can use the money saved for whatever they need, whether it be travel expenses or room and board.”
Poor says the Covenant Passport program made it financially possible for him to travel to Taiwan, where he taught at an English camp at Kung Ho Church, an Evangelical Covenant Church with about 1,000 members.
“People are so anxious for their children to learn English,” he says. “Parents took their children on a 45-minute scooter ride just so they could attend the session.” The English camp offered two week-long sessions for children between the ages of five and 12. Approximately 70 to 90 students were divided among four groups. Students attended four one-hour classes a day.
Poor says he and his fellow volunteers follow a slightly modified version of a curriculum they developed in 2011. Rather than use rote memorization techniques, they use creative, age-appropriate tools to teach the children English.
Students attend hands-on classes that focus on food, science, drama and music. In food, for example, the children create classic American dishes such as pizza, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and s’mores. They learn songs in English to help fine-tune their pronunciation, and they conduct science experiments to enhance their vocabulary while learning something new. Students even perform biblical dramas, such as crossing the Red Sea or reliving the tales of Jonah and the whale or the traditional Christmas nativity.
Poor is one of nine volunteers on a team organized by Covenant World Mission. Seven have educational backgrounds. This was Poor’s second trip to Taiwan – each year he says he returns home having learned more than he taught, especially about relationships.
“My relationship with the children and adults is the most exciting thing,” he says. “The children are so open and willing to share with you. And the adults are so willing to accept you into their lives and share what’s important to them. Relationships are very important to them.”
Taiwan is a Buddhist country, and Poor says there is generally not a bias toward Christians. In fact, the Taiwanese welcome people from the Evangelical Covenant Church. “They are very open to Christians coming and teaching them about Christianity as well as secular subjects,” he says.
Poor’s full head of white hair and bushy arms make him a favorite among the Taiwanese children. His age, 79, makes him a favorite among the adults. “As the Taiwanese become older they sort of give up on living,” he explains. “The church in Taipei is anxious to use a person my age as a model of someone who is still working, involved and wanting to do something for someone else,” he says.
In addition to teaching students, Poor socialized with church families and staff, participated in church services and enjoyed native Taiwanese meals. He spent three days sightseeing with other volunteers. And to the delight of his Taiwanese friends, he even learned a few key words in Mandarin.
Poor said he appreciates the opportunities afforded him through the Covenant Passport program and the Evangelical Covenant Church. “Throughout my whole life the church has supported me, made me who I am. Now I’m at a point in my life where I want to give back to others what was so freely given to me.”
Covenant Village of Northbrook is a nationally accredited not-for-profit continuing care retirement community. Covenant Retirement Communities Inc. is a ministry of the Evangelical Covenant Church. It serves more than 5,000 residents at 15 retirement communities nationwide.