On National Volunteer Week, we interviewed Janine
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of National Volunteer Week, we heard from a local volunteer, Janine. In addition to studying her master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies, Janine is doing her bit in the Bankstown community by helping others to improve their English, free of charge.
How long have you been doing volunteer tutoring?
I’ve been a volunteer tutor with Navitas English for almost 2 years now. I found out about the program online. Liverpool volunteers had posted an advertisement and I responded and took part in the training and have now now had a couple of students over the past two years.
How many students have you had over that time?
I started with an Egyptian student in the beginning. I tutored her for around a year before she moved and I’m now tutoring a Vietnamese student.
Are there any tips or tricks that you use to build rapport with your students?
When I have an arabic-speaking student I think it’s slightly easier because I come from a Lebanese background. So we share a common language, a common culture – in those cases it’s really quite wonderful because you have that immediate rapport.
When I have a student that comes from a completely different cultural or linguistic background, I find that incredibly exciting, as the opportunity is really there for me to exchange different ideas that we have about our cultures, perhaps our different religions. I find that enthusiasm and openness is usually really helpful when I’m first establishing a relationship.
So you mentioned that tutoring is rewarding for both parties. What do you get out of it and what do you think your students get out of it?
I think this scheme is really wonderful because it’s focusing on the ability to communicate. We are talking about individuals with varying levels of English – from beginner to an intermediate level of English. In both of those cases though it’s been really rewarding to help people communicate proficiently.
With my students it’s been really rewarding to help them be able to improve their communication. I think everyone has something that they want to contribute to society, but that can be really challenging if you are struggling to speak English. It’s hard to communicate or showcase yourself to the broader community if you’re struggling with a language barrier.
Do you find people are happier once they improve their ability to communicate?
Most definitely. I think when we’re talking about language, it’s usually in the context of an individual gaining access to employment opportunities or education. While those things are extremely important, in my students’ cases I’ve also seen more immediate benefits at the family level. Both of my students have been mothers and what is usually the case when you have young children is that they attend school here in Australia and their language ability in English supersedes their parents.
Often when children speak better English than their parents, it starts to create tension within a family’s structure. Something as simple as helping the children with their homework - which most of us take for granted - simple things like that become difficult for parents. So even at the family level, when I see these mothers feeling more equipped to help their kids with homework, to see them feel comfortable and able to share that experience with their children, is something that’s great to be a part of.
Given that you find it rewarding to be a volunteer tutor, do you think it’s something that you’ll keep doing for a while longer?
Certainly. My mother was an immigrant, who came to Australia with a very basic level of English, so for me this work has a personal dimension to it. I see my mother in a lot of the students that I tutor, so for me it’s something that I can see myself doing for a long time. If there are other people who are inspired by my story, then I’d encourage them to consider giving it a go – it’s a lovely experience.
If you're interested to volunteer as a tutor, please fill out the form here, and we will be in touch with you.