Teaching, Learning & Volunteering at the International Center

Posted on April 18, 2016 by Catholic Charities Admin  |  Share

Catholic Charities Celebrates Volunteers

By Paola Hornbuckle

Sandra Brooks (center), a longtime volunteer at Catholic Charities International Center.

“I came to teach, but I stayed to learn,” said Sandra Brooks, a longtime volunteer with the New International Center, during her April 14th address to a room full of international students and volunteers at a volunteer luncheon held at the International Center, 80 Maiden Lane in downtown Manhattan.

As a first-time volunteer blogger for Catholic Charities, I was struck by Ms. Brooks' passion and emotion on the subject.  Celebrating volunteerism was uppermost in everyone’s minds, and Sandra, a volunteer since the 1980’s, spoke from the heart. Holding a photograph of three students from the 1980’s with whom she stills keeps in touch, Sandra emphasized the gifts of volunteering.

“In giving, I was given too,” she said.

Sitting at this luncheon, I felt moved to volunteer at the International Center myself if I ever got a chance.

Paola Hornbuckle is a playwright and founder/editor of ArtsNFashion Magazine and a new volunteer at Catholic Charities. Read more of her stories at

The New International Center, a program of Catholic Charities Community Services, helps many international students with English, resume writing skills, lessons in American culture and basic life skills. Catering to a diverse group that includes political refugees, businessmen, international students and diplomats, the Center is a home away from home for many who often times feel a bit lost. I could tell that everyone at that event felt so happy and grateful to be part of this extended family.

Enida, a student from Albania, explained how homesick she felt until a year ago when she came to the Center and her life changed.

“This is not only a place to learn English, but it means much more to everyone,” she said. “I met and made a lot of friends. The International Center became a second home.”

Losha, a professor from Russia, explained how he had to come to terms with the Catholic angle after being born in a country that promoted atheism. He enjoyed it so much that he has stayed as a volunteer.

Nicolas, from Colombia, talks about how everyone is so kind and says hello. He comes one hour before class just to socialize.

At the luncheon, the students cooked meals from their own countries for the volunteers. It was the best way for them to say “thank you.”

After the three students talked and a few volunteers talked, everyone was very happy to go eat the home-made food.

Judy Goldberg, a volunteer for many years, explained to me that the Center is very flexible with assignments. A volunteer can do anything from being a conversation partner, to an English teacher, to organizing field trips. Still, what she enjoys the most is “the relationships you get from the students.”

Joan Rasnow, an International Center volunteer for one year, explains, “I like it a lot. I meet many interesting people from different backgrounds.”

In general, a very friendly group, all excited about meeting and making new friends.

Check out Catholic Charities volunteer opportunities – international and national alike.