Foster Grandparent shares his immigrant story and the joy of mentorship after retirement

Posted on Jun 14, 2019

Grandparent Meso Beta, 72, continues taking on new adventures and challenges. In 1980, Beta came to the United States from the Democratic of the Congo in hopes of finding a better life for his wife and children. His story is like many immigrants, but his hardships of providing for his family make his experience as a Foster Grandparent far more fulfilling.

Beta retired in 2011 and since then has found excitement in serving his community. He assists in the classroom daily and faces every new opportunity head-on. Beta carries with him a photographic memory, remembering every life experience before becoming a Foster Grandparent. 

When Beta arrived in Fresno, he remembers learning English, taking college courses and looking for a job all at once. Starting a new life in the Central Valley, came after Beta graduated in Germany with a Master’s in Plant Science and completed his Post Graduate studies in Research Education for Agriculture.

Although Beta completed his higher education, he felt as if he was starting over. His first job was as a janitor and then he worked on the assembly line at a factory. “Working was a hardship,” Beta said. “In the Congo, I was a director of a sugar cane factory, then here I started at the beginning.”

A few years after Beta started his life in Fresno, he remembers breaking his back and although unable to work, he made the most of his situation. He began taking classes on agriculture at Fresno City and then Fresno State, Beta moved on to work for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the weed department at the UC Davis Parlier Extension.

“I leave a part of me everywhere I go,” Beta said. He fondly remembers being on a project to begin drip irrigation at the Britz Farm Corp in Five Points. Beta spent most of his years up until the 2000s, working in agriculture. He and his wife found ways to provide for their family, until there came a point he was unable to find a job.

With guidance from family, Beta decided it was time to try something new. He enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Pasadena, with the hope of opening up a bakery after graduation. “I came back and I couldn’t find a job,” Beta said. “They told me it would be too hard to open up a bakery here. Everyone told me to work at Walmart and stay in front of the store, greeting people.” 

With many jobs taking a toll on Beta physically, it wasn’t long before he retired and found the Foster Grandparents program. “I don’t like TV, only news or PBS,” Beta said “I was bored, I thought what am I going to do? I kept reading about giving back to the community and I thought what does that mean?” 

Beta began looking for a way he could give back through an organization. That’s when he came across Fresno EOC offices on Mariposa Street.

“Someone saw me and asked what I was looking for; I was looking for something to occupy myself,” Beta said. “They explained they hire people 55 years of age and older. Then I told them I like people and explained I was a former teacher.”

In the Congo, Beta taught math and science to 6th and 7th graders. Being a Foster Grandparent is enjoyable for him because he has the opportunity to mentor students and motivate them, while in the classroom. Beta started as a foster grandparent at Local Conservation Corps, where he began assisting staff and building relationships with students at YouthBuild Charter School.

“When I started it gave me a chance to connect with my people and those that looked like me,” Beta said, referencing the diversity of the students. “My family didn’t go to school and they do things differently here. When I was younger, I moved to a dormitory and went to school away from my parents.”

Now Beta enjoys teaching multiplication, grouping and factoring to lower grade levels. “They helped me be more patient,” Beta said. “I feel really good knowing if the children have a problem with reading or if they are struggling with multiplication tables, I can help them. I’m happy they pick up so quickly.”

Along with mentoring students, Beta is proud of his children and enjoys spending time his with wife, whom he also takes care of. “I’m very thankful for this opportunity,” Beta said. “I am happy because I can work hard for my family and all of my children attended college; two of them are pursuing to become doctors.”

Beta looks back proudly on what he has accomplished since coming to the United States and is happy to describe how every position led to him serving his community. After over five years as a Foster Grandparent, he continues to enjoy being in the classroom and encourages students to reach their goals.

Foster Grandparents are seniors who volunteer on a one-to-one basis or group setting to promote literacy and academic success. This a rewarding opportunity for both the young person and Foster Grandparent to engage in life changing support.

Learn more about Foster Grandparent Program