An Eagle Scout and an Elder Stateman

2020 No 16

It sounds like the beginning of a joke: An Eagle Scout and an elder stateman walk into a used bookstore…

But it’s not a joke. It’s the kind of thing that happens often in KIN’s LaMP program.

Twenty-five year-old Hugh, a nurse, came back from a work opportunity in West Africa just before COVID hit. John, a refugee in his 70s and former music director for his home country’s national government, had no ESL class to attend when everything closed. What could these two possibly have in common?

When Hugh learned about KIN and realized he could continue to befriend internationals even though he couldn’t travel abroad, he contacted KIN’s volunteer outreach coordinator. After praying through it, the coordinator introduced these two very different men.

Hugh remembers the first time they met: “When she opened John’s door, I could see into his house. I thought, ‘This is authentic. These are the people I just came back from living with in Africa. This is amazing!’”

After a few months of weekly lessons, John’s English has already improved, and he’s gaining confidence. But sometimes the lessons they share aren’t really relevant for John. So recently, Hugh altered a lesson about movie ratings. Thinking about John’s many children of varying ages, he shared how ‘G’ was safe for everyone, ‘PG’ was fine for older kids, etc. The next time they met, they took a field trip to McKay’s. Hugh pulled DVD cases from the shelves while John found the rating and decided who in his family could safely watch that movie. Hugh said later, “I tried to think, if I was a dad in a country where I don’t understand the language or culture, what’s a piece of information I would want…that would be really helpful?”

And that’s one way this Eagle Scout helped an elder statesman not only improve his English but also improve his parenting and cultural understanding.


Hugh and John are just one of more than 25 partnerships KIN has facilitated since the pandemic closed most in-person ESL classes. If you’d like the chance to make a friend and help someone have a better life in metro Knoxville, complete our volunteer application today!

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