For 62-year old Yasha Khibkin, it has been a long journey from his days as a physics and astronomy teacher in Uzbekistan to a Foster Grandparent volunteer in Massachusetts. Khibkin immigrated to the United States with his wife in early 1997 with more than two decades of teaching experience to his credit, impressive computer skills, degrees in astronomy and physics, but not knowing the English language. So, with the help of a Jewish Vocational Services worker, he enrolled in an English course.
The Chauncy Street location for the Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) also housed Action for Boston Community Development, Inc. (ABCD). They sponsor the area’s Foster Grandparent Program, and in 1998, the JVS social worker put Khibkin in touch with the director of the Foster Grandparent Program.
Khibkin has been working with youth ever since he was introduced to the program in 1998. Khibkin has combined his educational background with his recently acquired English skills to become the best volunteer he can be in the Foster Grandparent Program. As a volunteer Grandpa, he spends at least 20 hours per week helping children understand their homework and learn chess in the Broadmeadows After-School Program in Quincy, Massachusetts.
The children he serves range from six to eleven years old. Khibkin wants to stay sharp and keep in touch with his grandchildren, so he continues to improve his English skills by taking ESL courses run by QCAP and at Quincy College.
The Foster Grandparent experience carries many rewards. Both the grandparents and grandchildren have social contact, feelings of involvement and feelings of importance. ABCD’s Foster Grandparent program reaches out to children in the Boston area and over 140 senior volunteers who come from China, Hong Kong, North America, South America, Somalia, South Africa, Russia and the West Indies work with children in schools and daycare centers both individually and in small groups. These meetings develop the children’s self-confidence and sense of self-worth.
Khibkin also reaches out to the staff. He has made Russian meals during the Christmas season in an effort to connect more with staff that is much younger than he. He wholeheartedly supports the mission to create an environment that supports and encourages each child’s development.