By BR Whalen, Okanagan College ESL Settlement and Assistance Program
Part of a series celebrating National Volunteer Week in Revelstoke
One feels fortunate to be part of a program that consists of caring and generous volunteers, and eager and appreciative learners. The English as a Second Language Settlement Assistance Program (ESLSAP) at Okanagan College is mostly an adult volunteer tutoring program that works with immigrants who want to improve their English language skills, learn about Canadian culture and become more a part of our community.
Steve Jung and his wife Maimi Im moved to Revelstoke from South Korea a few years ago. They were eager to improve their English skills, make friends and become a part of the community. Revelstoke does not have the English language services that are available in large cities.
Steve wrote, “When I first came to Revelstoke, I did not know what was waiting for my new life with my wife, Maimi. It is sure, we had to speak English wherever we wanted to go for shopping, working and travelling. As now, there is ESL class only once a week. That means it is not enough to learn and practice English for people like me. Working with a volunteer ESL tutor is my first step to learning English. Elaine is my tutor. We have known each other for almost three years. That she has helped me to do a lot of things as a friend as well. We always try to share information from the newspaper about what happened in Revelstoke. She has helped connect me to people to find a new job. Before Elaine, John Netzel was my tutor for one year. It’s not easy to be a volunteer, but Elaine and John are different. They are the best friends I have in Canada.”
Steve’s tutor Elaine Baird has enjoyed her experience as a volunteer. According to Elaine, “Steve works hard to improve his English. He often asks me about complicated English words that aren’t used in casual conversation, for example, emancipation, vaunt, unintentionally. I enjoy the challenge of thinking about why he’s chosen certain words and how to explain/demonstrate their use to him. Our tutor sessions are fun for both of us, and we laugh a lot. Through Steve I have met his wife and other members of his family. Last year, I had the pleasure of travelling to Seoul with my son. While there Steve’s sister-in-law took us under her wing and showed us some of the finer features of Korean culture. Tutoring Steve has enriched my life in many ways.”
Another one of our many valued volunteers is Claudette Kendel. Claudette tutors Steve’s wife, Maimi. Claudette shares, “Working as a volunteer tutor with Maimi is very gratifying. In spite of being a busy young mother, she makes time to get her assignments done. She’s always willing to try new activities and techniques to enhance her English. At the end of every single tutoring session, she expresses her gratitude by saying, ‘Thank you for today, Claudette.’ By spending time with Maimi, I am given the opportunity to experience Korean culture first hand. We’ve discovered a common love for cooking and enjoy trying each other’s foods. Over the past year and a half, we have become friends who are learning from each other.”
To reliably dedicate two hours a week to meet with a newcomer during the school year takes commitment, but the dedication comes with rewards for both the tutors and the learners. If you have time to dedicate, an interest in other cultures and a love of teaching, we are always looking to add new volunteers to our team. Please contact us at Okanagan College if you would like more information.