Courage, self-esteem, and above all, friendship - the benefits of going `One With One'

David Goldberg's nameplate at the office is not just any old nameplate: Underneath the English spelling is a Khmer rendition. ``It's a great conversation piece,'' says Mr. Goldberg, an information center analyst with Fidelity Investments in Framingham, Mass. And it gives him an opportunity to tell people about two very important people in his life - Tanty Tham and Soheen Ou.

Tanty and Soheen are Cambodian refugees. Both survived the horrors of the communist takeover by the Pol Pot regime, and spent a number of years in refugee camps in Thailand before coming to the United States. While both are well on their way to graduating from an American high school and heading off to college, they were each encouraged by a school counselor or teacher to apply for a One With One tutor to help them improve their English.

It was Tanty who, during a visit to Fidelity Investments, used an Apple computer to write out Goldberg's name in Khmer.

Goldberg began his work as a One With One partner in 1985 with a man from Guatemala. In June 1986, he took on a partnership with Soheen and three months ago he began working with Tanty as well. Tanty and Goldberg are currently working on preparing the youth for the SAT exams he will need to take this year. And while it is still a bit early for 17-year-old Tanty to evaluate the benefits of the tutorial, he says he can tell he's gained ``more courage'' and his vocabulary is growing.

Goldberg's formal commitments - six months - to the man from Guatemala and Soheen are over. But he keeps in touch with his first partner, and speaking of Soheen he says, ``This partnership has involved into a very good friendship, and we do a lot of things together.... My aim now is to expose him to things he might not otherwise be exposed to - leisure activities, a working environment, social events.''

Sixteen-year-old Soheen, who, like Tanty, is very soft-spoken, says the partnership has helped him ``get to know more people, get better grades, and learn more about different things.'' He has also, through his contact with the program, recently become employed at a local fast-food restaurant.

The initial focus of Goldberg's work is to improve the refugees' English skills. But the real value of the program, he says, is developing a friendship - not only with the partners but also with their families. ``I was petrified when I went for my first session with these guys. But their families greeted me with open arms,'' says Goldberg. ``I, and the others involved in the program, view it as more than just a tutoring program. I'm concerned with the whole being of the partner. If it's only a tutoring program, then I think we've failed.''

Goldberg says he didn't have any grand altruistic reasons for getting involved in One With One. ``It wasn't like I was going to make some great self-sacrifice for someone else. I felt that I would benefit, and that has certainly been the case. It's helped my self-esteem and my ability to deal with people and their differences.''

Watching his young partners grow up in the same community he did adds a special touch to his partnerships, says Goldberg.

``It's kind of like reliving my youth. They're going to the same boys club, and Soheen is even working at the same place I did, a McDonald's. But he's doing better: I only lasted one night.''

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