Seniors Marie and Helen Sgouros are founders and directors of the organizations English Kids to Kids and Bridging Cultures, also known as EK2K and BC. Together, the groups help child refugees from the South East Asian nation of Burma (also known as Myanmar) learn English and American Culture so they can interact with American classmates.
The idea began as a Girl Scout project 10 years ago, and since, it has received a Girl Scout gold award, the highest-ranking award in Girl Scouts. The honor of a gold medal is given to an elite few who have used their service project to create a high impact on their community.
“I find the most amazing thing is that the volunteers ranged from Valedictorians to students in Special Ed classes,” said Shirley Sgouros, the twins’ mother.
The project runs every summer for four weeks and uses local teens as volunteers. Throughout the years, they have had over 200 people participate in the program.
Senior volunteer Andrew Lieman was impressed with the program. “It was really nice, I could really tell I was making a difference in their lives.”
Last year was his first year in the program, and he would “definitely do it again,” he said.
The Bridging Cultures Foundation’s main goal is to break down social and cultural barriers. The refugees learn activities such as American games, like twister. It also teaches them about American holidays such as Halloween and everyday life in general.
“One of the most important things is that we have teenage volunteers teaching these kids, so we really stress the peer to peer relationship,” said Marie.
EK2K is a humanitarian aid organization that helps people in disaster zones and in political strife. The volunteers help children learn and strengthen English skills and learn about American history.
So far, there have been several success stories. “There were these two girls named Sing and Lou. They only knew the alphabet, but after four weeks they were saying things like please, thank you, and oh come over here. So that was really eye-opening,” said Helen.
There are two branches in Baltimore and Howard County. The Sgouros’s are currently working with the Howard County Government and local organizations, such as Grace Community Church, to improve the program. However, both the girls have spoken to the Girl Scout Chief Financial Officer and hope to have a branch set up in New York City in the near future.
When asked what their favorite part of it all was, Marie smiled and said, “Seeing the advancement in the kids English from the beginning of the program to the end.” Helen responded with, “Being able to create all the lesson plans and pre-testing the kids.”
After Helen and Marie leave for college this year and are no longer directors, junior Vaidehi Apte and Centennial High School junior Hali Kim will be the new directors of EK2K and BC. Their hope is to keep this program going for generations to come.
Volunteers are always needed. The girls are looking for responsible teenagers who want to help, asking those who are interested to visit http://www.m-t-r-b-j.com/.