Local teens offering free tutoring for refugee students

By Taylor Pace

One wouldn’t expect students to care about keeping up with their studies with a war raging on around them. But two local teens quickly found that wasn’t the case. 

In fact, they found that there is no shortage of Ukrainian students who need tutoring right now. 

“We were surprised by how many students value their education and want to continue even right now as their country is war torn,” said Mariya Turetska, President and Founder of Compass Tutoring.

In response to this need, Turetska joined forces with Paris Cai, President and Founder of HomeworkHub, to provide Ukrainian students with free online tutoring. 

“There is a huge demand for such services right now, considering that Ukrainians are affected by war and don’t have access to education, because all the schools are closed,” she said.

Since schools began closing their doors in early February as conflict escalated, at least 350,000 students have been left without access to education.  

According to the UN, more than 733 educational institutions have been damaged or destroyed after a month of war.

Even those who have been able to flee have either not been able to jump back into the school system in their host country yet, or are facing various challenges like language barriers. 

Compass and HomeworkHub offer support for students on both ends of the spectrum, with the help of multilingual and ESL tutors.

They initially started with a fundraiser, campaigning for donations to help with humanitarian aid. But they noticed the places sending humanitarian aid became overwhelmed with the amount they were receiving. 

“So the logistics were really slow, and we realized that it was not the most effective thing we could do to help,” Turetska said. “And then we thought maybe we could provide educational support to students.” 

Their free program is dedicated to helping all Ukrainian students ranging collectively from Grades 1 to 10. 

So far, they have about 70 Ukrainian students already — with even more still waiting to be paired with a tutor. 

“We have a lot of students who request Ukrainian or Russian-speaking tutors. However, we definitely don’t have enough Ukrainian or Russian-speaking tutors to accommodate volunteers,” Turetska said. “So that’s when we started pairing them up with ESL tutors, because that’s the only option we’re left with.”

As their organizations continue to grow even moreso with the introduction if their refugee program, they are seeing a constant, overwhelming demand for tutors.

“People are always looking for ways to help Ukraine, and a lot of times they [think] the only way they can help is to donate,” she said. 

Monetary donations are not always practical for everyone though, especially students. Plus, she says, you don’t always know exactly where the money is going.  
“People don’t realize that they can help by tutoring,” she said. Specifically though, by volunteering their time to tutor other students for free on platforms like theirs in lieu of a donation, rather than charging money. 

“That’s a great thing that someone can do and simultaneously help support students at the same time,” she said. 

Cai added that the amount of people they’ve seen willing to help so far has been inspiring. 

And while Cai said there is often a bit of a language barrier between students and tutors who don’t speak Ukrainian or Russian, they find ways to communicate, and it helps the students learn English. 

Many of their students have fled to various European countries, like Poland and Germany, but some students are still situated in Ukraine. 

“We have a lot of students who are still in Ukraine, still affected by war,” Cai said. “We actually had a tutor email us that their lessons were cut short because of a siren.”

As Turetska is Ukrainian herself, she figures a lot of the students who signed up likely did so because they could relate to her. 

“I have a deep understanding of what’s happening there,” she said, adding that she also advertised for their services in Ukrainian, posting in places like Ukrainian Facebook groups, and communicating with people in both Ukrainian and Russian.  

Turetska said around 100 Ukrainian students have arrived in Canada, and they’ve been getting in touch with them through other organizations to offer their support. 

Interested students can sign up through Compass or HomeworkHub, and will be paired with a free tutor based on their needs and availability. Interested tutors can also find out more here.

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