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ESOL Teacher Serves Ukrainians in Need
February 13, 2023
If you didn’t think heroes were real, look again. Fluvanna County High School English to Speakers of Other Language (ESOL) teacher Jenny Payne has been making trips to Ukraine since early 2000 to work with orphans and special needs children. Payne’s first trip to Ukraine in 2000 was to teach English and coach sports teams. She then later relocated from Chicago to Virginia where she became involved in the Ukraine Special Needs Fund and continued to travel to Ukraine each summer.
Although she teaches ESOL, she has always had a heart for missions and took many mission trips as a teenager. When she was in college she was selected to represent the US on a basketball team that visited Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and Yugoslavia. During the day teammates would do service projects in the communities and in the evenings they played basketball against the national teams. Payne enjoyed being in Europe and wanted to continue to serve. “I saw that they needed coaches and English teachers in Ukraine and I jumped at the opportunity. My family spent that summer in Ukraine and fell in love with the area and its people. That summer began a love that continues today for Ukraine,” she said.
Payne has been teaching ESOL for almost 25 years, after she was introduced to ESOL when she worked for World Relief. She also housed refugee families from Sudan and Serbia in her home and ran an after-school program for refugee children. When she moved back to Fluvanna she taught Health/PE but was hired to teach ESOL when Fluvanna County Public Schools started getting ESOL students in the school system.
On her travels, Payne is responsible for leading camp programs for orphans and special needs children. The Ukraine fund also takes therapists and educators to work with the children and provide training for Ukrainian teachers. Payne has expressed her sadness about not being able to go to Ukraine these past couple of summers. “Due to Covid-19 restrictions. It has been hard not to be in Ukraine,” she said, adding, “The Ukrainian people have become family and we look forward to seeing them each summer.”
Even though she can’t enter Ukrainian soil this summer due to the war with Russia, she has decided to find other ways to serve these courageous people. She found an organization that was looking for people to work with the mothers and children in Warsaw, Poland. “I applied and was accepted to the program. I will spend a month this summer running camps and teaching English to children,” she said. As an ordained minister and certified chaplain, Payne has also been asked to minister and provide counseling to the families.
If you would like to learn more about how to help the people of Ukraine, contact Payne at [email protected]
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