Mano al Hermano’s Summer Family Literacy Program needs volunteers to help Latino families and students stay connected over the summer.

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A student in the Summer Family Literacy Program.

A student in the Summer Family Literacy Program.

Volunteers can give a child the gift of literacy this summer by donating as little as an hour a week to Mano al Hermano’s Summer Family Literacy Program.

Going into its third year, the program that serves Dare County’s Latino families is in critical need of help due to the growing number of children in need of services and the dwindling number of volunteers.

The eight-week summer program aims at serving more than 150 students in grades kindergarten through fifth, but it currently only has 12 volunteers. The program runs year-round, and its summer program begins June 22.

Volunteers are asked to visit a family once a week to share books and information about the local beach environment in a fun and interactive way. The program will culminate with a field trip hosted by the N.C. Coastal Federation.

Volunteers are trained and receive all the necessary materials they need to be successful.

Mano al Hermano Executive Director Ginger Candelora knows the difference volunteering in the program can make for the students and the teachers.

“The very first thing you notice right away is the reaction of the parents,” says Candelora, who volunteers regularly with her grandson. “When you are in the home teaching the children, the moms are close by, they listen and come over and look to see what you are doing. Many of these parents don’t read or write even in their own language.”

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A gathering for the Literacy Program.

A gathering for the Literacy Program.

Parents and children want volunteers to be there, she adds: “They really look forward to you coming and are happy you are there. The children are ready to learn.”

Candelora says participants in the program are part of strong family units who are here to give their children a better life. “They are here for their children but they don’t know how to maneuver within the education system,” she says. “Mano al Hermano’s concern is that many of these parents came from countries where they didn’t have beyond a sixth grade education because as soon as they were old enough, they went out to work.

“We want to send a message to parents that education is not a luxury in this culture, but a neccesity. So we are teaching parents and children together.”

Candelora says the summer program is the easiest time for volunteers to give time because schedules are more flexible without the students in school.  And while it is only necessary to volunteer one hour a week with one child, volunteers can give more time and serve up to three students in the program. Candelora says program leaders encourage partners to team up to volunteer in the homes.

Volunteers do not need to know how to speak Spanish.

“Becoming a family literacy program volunteer is a wonderful, rewarding experience,” says Program Director Kay Minis. “Many times a tutor will tell me that they feel guilty as they feel they are getting more than they are giving in the tutor/learner relationship.”

According to Mano al Hermano, research shows a much higher rate of school dropout within the Latino community than in the general population.

“Today there are more than 100 children enrolled in the Family Literacy Program and there are 48 students on a waiting list and presently we are not accepting additional referrals,” according to the organization’s volunteer recruitment plan.

The group says there were a total of 404 elementary-aged Hispanic children attending Dare County Schools in 2013, not including Hatteras Island. Figures for the coming year were not available.

The organization receives referrals from teachers and families as well. “Our growing numbers reinforce our belief that providing assistance is not only needed, but also welcomed by both parents and school personnel,” the plan states.

The largest need for volunteers is in Manteo, where 40 percent of families in the program live. A large need is also in the Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head areas.

Volunteers will be trained and all materials will be provided. They must agree to a background criminal check and be at least 18 years old.

One of the purposes of the program is to provide a working model for families to emulate on their own. Tutors provide a good example of setting time aside for reading and homework, and it is hoped the families will continue with that model.

According to its mission statement, Mano al Hermano is a local, community-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower Latino families to achieve their goals and dreams through education and positive integration programs. It serves as a central location that members of the Latino community can turn to for information, family support, access to educational opportunities and opportunities to build leadership within the Latino community.

Want to help?

If you’re interested in volunteering for the Summer Family Literacy Program, contact Ginger Candelora at manoalhermano@charter.net or by calling 252 261-6160 as soon as possible.

For the 2015–16 school year programs, volunteer recruitment and information events are being held on the following dates:

Tues., June 16, 6-8 p.m., Baum Center, 300 Mustian Avenue, Kill Devil Hills

Tues., August 18, 6-8 p.m., Roanoke Island Presbyterian Church, 855 U.S. Highway 64, Manteo

Information: 252-261-6160; manoalhermano@charter.net

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