There are not many opportunities to make someone’s life significantly better with nothing more than just one to two hours of your time each week.
But at Navitas English, hundreds of people of all ages, backgrounds and interests are doing just that – by participating in the Volunteer Tutor Scheme (VTS).
The scheme, which is part of the Australian Government’s Adult Migrant English Program* (AMEP), assists eligible migrants and refugees who need extra support learning English through one-on-one tuition.
During National Volunteer Week (17-23 May 2021) Navitas English is saying a big “thank you” to its 175 wonderful tutors across Sydney and Canberra, and to the hundreds more who have given their time to the program over the past seven years.
While the tutors’ primary purpose is to help students with English, they often have a much broader role of providing friendship, cultural information and assistance with the students’ settlement needs, says Navitas English Volunteer Tutor Coordinator Marcella Aguilar, who has personally delivered training to 505 tutors since 2017.
She said tutors did not need prior teaching experience or any special skills and it didn’t matter if English was not their first language.
“We have working professionals, retirees, university students, migrants and even ex-students, from all walks of life,” Ms Aguilar says.
“Our volunteer tutors find the role extremely rewarding, often calling it, ‘The best volunteering job in Australia’.”
AMEP students choose to have a tutor for a variety of reasons – some have young children, or are pregnant, some students have health or mobility issues and cannot get to a college. Tutors might also support students who are participating in specialty courses, such as AMEP Pathways to Work courses in childcare, office skills or aged care, for example. Tutors also help students with IELTS or employment preparation and citizenship courses.
Volunteers undergo training for the role of tutor and are matched with a client where they meet face to face for lessons, for one to two hours per week. There are currently 190 students in the program.
Navitas English Current Tutor Case Studies
YANBO WANG, 28
BONNIE LEPELAAR, 56
AMIEN AHMED, 71
ANNEKA WARD, 71
Anneka has tutored people of many backgrounds (from Asian countries, Russia, India and Spanish Columbia) since 2015. While she uses the college resources to converse with her students about topics such as housing, education, law, safety and applying for work, she says she learns just as much from them.
“It is very rewarding and, for myself, I get to know people from other cultures by showing an interest in them and asking them about their background,” she says.
“I find it an eye-opener, in a good way! And it makes you aware of other peoples’ needs and how important language skills are for everything you do.”
Anneka joined the VTS because she “wanted to give something to the community and help people with language skills in order to empower them and help them become part of the community”.
She is still in touch with the first lady she tutored: “People in their situation can be very isolated. This program means somebody comes to see them and pays them a bit of attention. Friendships can develop.”
STUDENT: YU-HAN (IVY) CHEN
Ivy was learning English through the AMEP at Navitas English’s Bankstown college, but could no longer attend when she secured full time work at Taiwan Bank in the city. So she was thrilled to start one-on-one tutor sessions with Yanbo in February this year.
“I speak Mandarin at work and at home with my husband, so I need to improve speaking English,” Ivy says.
“Yanbo is great. We always share our lives and our experiences, and we always go over one hour – usually two hours! She knows what it is like to be a new immigrant because she moved here too, so she is a great help to me. It is just like friends talking.
“I’m very grateful that she is willing to help me in her own time and I appreciate that Navitas has this kind of opportunity to provide home tutoring or I would not be able to improve my English.”
National Volunteer Week is Australia’s largest annual celebration of volunteers and runs from Monday 17 to Sunday 23 May 2021. The week acknowledges the significant contribution of almost six million volunteers who dedicate over 600 million hours to help other Australians.
For more information about the Volunteer Tutor Scheme, or to register your interest, go to: https://www.navitas-english.com.au/careers-and-volunteering/volunteering/.