Edgefield County, South Carolina receives many foreign nationals in the area to provide agriculture help to the local farmers. Often, the nationals have a language barrier, and the simple activities of daily living such as shopping, dealing with a bank, buying gas, and exchanging funds is a big problem for this diverse population. The Ridge Baptist Association through its missionary functions decided to assist with this community problem by helping the Hispanic population to function in the community. As a part of their intent, they sought volunteers to facilitate the program.
Rita France is one of those volunteers who teaches Conversational English classes at the Ridge Spring Baptist Church. She learned about the churches in Ridge Baptist Association and their initial intent to provide conversational English classes through a friend. She began to attend the meetings in September 2000. During these meetings a calendar was established, they coordinated and taught the volunteers how to teach, arranged for class registration, and distributed information to the local area regarding the classes.
The students in the program are adults from Mexico and Guatemala. There is one class for the children who range in ages from 5 to 12. The eight adults are placed in a separate classroom, which are held for one hour. Then they are placed in a group class that lasts for 15 minutes. The participants are then rewarded during a social period where refreshments are served. During these times, they encourage the students to engage in English practice sessions to improve their language skills. France is responsible for teaching an adult class, and she leads the group class and is responsible for providing the blessings prior to the social.
Since the program’s inception, the students can now greet and introduce themselves, give their address and telephone numbers, which is a great accomplishment after only two months of instruction. These same students could not answer the registration questions in English just months ago. During the social, they encourage the students to interact with the visiting association church members who provide the refreshments. This is very rewarding to the students and the teachers to watch these individuals develop and become a part of the community.
These classes are held at the Ridge Spring Baptist Church. France has worked the registration table because of her ease with both languages. She has also been instrumental in the families becoming more comfortable, which resulted in an increase in enrollment. The mission of the Church and the volunteers is to facilitate the transition of the Hispanic population in the area so that they are able to function without the language barrier. This will help them attend to daily activities of living. France travels twenty miles to volunteer for this effort. She receives no stipend or reimbursement, but she is committed and will continue the effort to aid her community.