WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Sixty educators traveled from eight different countries to Polk County to help with the school district’s teacher shortage.
“It’s a big change actually, this is not like our country. Our country has different strategies,” said Pabitha Ponnappan Rajam.
Rajam is from India and has never been to the United States before now. She’s teaching sixth-grade math and said she already feels so welcomed.
“A lot of help and support from the school side and for the living base, it’s coming from the church and community,” Rajam said.
The TPG cultural exchange program has provided international teachers with housing, but many of them are still in need of everyday items.
“Can you imagine leaving your home with one suitcase? Coming to somewhere saying you’re going to start over. You’re going to do something and you’re doing it for a good cause,” said Katina Campbell, Coordinator of International Adopt a Teacher Luncheon.
To help these teachers and show gratitude, Hurst Chapel AME Church in Winter Haven is hosting the International Adopt a Teacher Luncheon on Saturday.
They’ve asked the community to donate and in two weeks they’ve received items like microwaves, bedding, and bikes.
“It’s like a modern-day Walmart in our church. You have everything you need here. So, it’s one-stop shopping. We have toilet paper, sanitizer, we have masks, anything that a teacher may need to be successful,” Campbell said.
Teachers like Rajam will be paired with a community member who will help them transition to their new lives in Polk County.
“I’m seriously looking forward to it,” Rajam said.