Bridging the Gap (BTG) is a student-run service organization at the University of Virginia devoted to mentoring and tutoring refugee children resettled in the Charlottesville-Albemarle, VA area. BTG seeks to help refugee youth, typically ranging from 5 to 15 years of age, develop the tools necessary to obtain greater opportunities in U.S. society. BTG has only been in existence for one year yet includes over 90 student volunteers mentoring and tutoring nearly 80 refugee children.
The children in our program come from Somalia, Kenya, Congo, Thailand, Togo, Russia, and Burma. The organization is a Chartered Independent Organization (CIO) through the University of Virginia and we are considering becoming a 501(c)3. Almost 1000 refugees, about 100-200 a year, from all around the world have resettled from their native countries to Charlottesville, VA. They primarily arrive through the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a refugee resettlement nonprofit with its smaller US chapter in Charlottesville. Many of the children are living outside of a refugee camp for the first time in their lives.
We believe that BTG mentoring services can improve the children’s often traumatized mental health, and our tutoring services can facilitate a faster English language learning process for them – two essential prerequisites to their social and academic success. Using the children's library we created from scratch last spring, we are developing an incentives-based reading program for the children. It could prove very valuable in motivating the children to read more, enjoy reading, and hence improve their English skills.