Naomi Rosenthal, a retired Special Education teacher living in Lexington, has been a LexRAP volunteer since the fall of 2018. She and husband Daniel, a high school math teacher, have one son, a daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. Says Naomi, “I love being a grandmother, connecting people, dahlias, getting lost in a good book, swimming, and being with my friends. And, true confessions, I love watching The Bachelor.” She is also working on a book about jigsaw puzzles and how they are a metaphor.
Naomi got involved with LexRAP in a somewhat roundabout way. “I was helping a Syrian refugee family in Lowell and posted on Nextdoor a request for bicycles for the kids. Marianne (Boswell, LexRAP founder) saw my post and wrote back, ‘We should talk’! I went to a few of the monthly public meetings that LexRAP held before Covid to learn more and figure out how to get involved, which I did once I retired.”
Serving in Many Ways
From December 2018 until March 2020 (when Covid began) Naomi helped organize LexRAP’s Hand-in-Hand café, a monthly dinner at First Parish Church that was prepared by three refugee cooks and many volunteers. The event was powerful: it brought the community together, gave visibility to LexRAP, and gave the cooks an opportunity to be seen and engaged. “Hand-in-Hand used all of the skills I had developed as a teacher but in a different way through organization, collaboration, and connection,” she explains.
Naomi is also a “Lead” for a family, their primary LexRAP point of contact. While she did not perform all of these functions for her family, a Lead typically helps with getting children registered for school; obtaining healthcare; finding and registering for English language classes; getting further training and finding work; securing stable, affordable housing; and learning to drive, among other aspects of assimilating to life in the U.S. In addition, she has done some tutoring, supporting a LexRAP mom studying for her citizenship test and helping a nine-year-old with math.
The Joy of Volunteering
Naomi says that being a LexRAP volunteer has enriched her life in many ways. She feels helpful. She experiences the challenge that comes with problem solving. She has met wonderful people, including both other volunteers and the refugees LexRAP serves. And she has learned a lot about other cultures.
“I loved being a Special Education teacher and was worried that when I retired, I would not feel like I was giving back or contributing to the world in a positive way. Volunteering with LexRAP gives me that feeling,” she notes.
“When I first met the family I work with, I felt that I finally understood the meaning of the expression, ‘My heart is full.’ This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”
Naomi is also a member of the LexRAP Board of Directors