Leah Mendes Story
For the past two and a half years, I’ve had the gift of serving as a mentor in the Reading Circle program through Refugee Resources Inc. The organization is set in Vickery Meadow, a beautifully diverse refugee community in Dallas. While it’s only a few minutes away from my apartment, it feels like another part of the world. The neighborhood is made up of people from many different ethnicities, cultures, and backgrounds, and it has a sense of community that is rare to find. Families sit outside their apartments and talk while kids run around playing together, and it isn’t uncommon for someone you just met to welcome you in for a meal.
Each Wednesday, we get to interact with multitudes of people as we walk throughout the community to pick up our students and bring them to Reading Circle. The program follows a curriculum designed to help improve fluency and comprehension, which are major challenges for refugee students. They speak English as a second language and typically have spent years in refugee camps where education is limited or non-existent. It’s exciting to watch the students’ progression both academically and personally, as they advance to new reading levels and mature as people.
Through Reading Circle, I mentor a twelve-year-old girl named Aminah. Her family is originally from Burma but had to flee to Malaysia before ultimately making it to Dallas. It is hard for me to fully understand what Aminah has experienced in her life, but I am in awe of her resilience. Over the past few years, I’ve watched Aminah grow into a confident, compassionate and strong young woman. She wants to become a doctor when she grows up, and I have no doubt that she has the power to achieve her dream. Aminah is both brilliant and driven, speaking six languages and constantly pushing herself to advance academically. Despite the numerous factors working against her, it’s inspiring to watch what she is accomplishing.
I am thankful to play a small part in Aminah’s literacy growth, but it has been an even greater joy to develop a friendship with her. I love hearing about what’s going on with her friends, family, and school, and I feel honored to be invited into her life as she navigates the challenges of middle school. I love Aminah and I want her to know that she is deeply loved, valued and accepted by her Creator.
I started at Reading Circle because, as a follower of Jesus, I wanted to extend His love and enter in with marginalized people. I never anticipated just how much I had to learn from Aminah, or how God would shape my perspectives and heart through the process. I am so thankful for the opportunity to live life alongside my friends in Vickery Meadow through the Reading Circle program.