So, for some time now I have been volunteering at a local high school to help children with their English. Most of the children that I work with are Polish so it’s easy for me to communicate with them and help them with their homework or their reading. I usually sit with them during their classes and answer any questions that they might have. I also help them understand the work they have to complete and do it with them. However, this isn’t the reason I sat down to write this post. Although, helping those children is amazing and rewarding I find it somewhat easy as I can speak their language and I myself was once in their shoes. Difference being, I didn’t have anyone helping me with my English apart from the occasional one on one session with a reading teacher. That was it. So, I feel like giving those children the help that I didn’t receive myself is the greatest thing.
However, the main reason why I love volunteering at that particular school so much is a precious, little boy that I met during my first week (for the sake of this post, we will call him Ali). He, not so long ago, moved over to England with his parents and siblings speaking no English, he is now attending this high school which I know must be terrifying for him, he has no idea what the people around him are saying even though half of the time they are probably speaking about him. Planning his activities, deploying people to sit with him and help, discussing where he should be eating lunch that particular and so on. One of the people who sits with Ali all day completing various activities with him is me. I try to familiarize him with easy words, teach him the basics and although it is tough he picks up English very quickly!!
He has the most adorable, innocent, little accent and such a determination to learn as much as he can in the time that we are given. His hunger to learn to speak English is admiring. He listens intently and tries his hardest to communicate with me. Having spent some time with him now I feel like we have a special bond and although we can’t speak each others languages (yet) it’s like we understand everything the other is saying. I teach him certain sentences and how to write particular words and in return he teaches me how to write them in Arabic and how to pronounce them too.
Recently, I have been back home for the Easter break and I missed three weeks of school. When I came back I hoped that Ali was more confident and had perhaps made some friends and I was so happy to find out that he is now in lessons along with all of the other children and he eats his lunch and plays football at break with the other boys. Sitting in that dull room looking at the same four walls all day and having no interaction with the other children must have been super boring for him. Me and Ali now understand each other much better even though he still doesn’t speak much English he is a smart boy and he finds other ways to explain to me exactly what he means. I am so confident that towards the end of the school year he will find his voice and speak. He is already so much more confident.
Last week during our science lesson he asked the teacher for a glue stick and scissors all by himself, in his English lesson he asked the boy next to him to borrow his rubber. This may not seem like a big deal to you reading this and that is because you take your language and the ability to speak it for granted, for me it’s a huge deal that he was able to do that himself, no hesitation, no mistakes in his sentences. I was very proud.
I have noticed a lot during my time at this particular school and more than anything I now understand how important it is for us not to take away someone else’s education away from them. In some of the lessons the children really are naughty and don’t pay attention to the teacher, they dismiss the tasks they are assigned and they genuinely are not interested and this unfortunately leaves children such as Ali and many others waiting around for the teacher to settle those individuals down so that he/she is able to resume his/her teaching. When I was at school I never noticed this because a. I went to a fairly good school where children were well behaved and standards were high but b. I was one of the pupils so I didn’t notice the problem. Sitting in lessons now and being able to observe with a more mature outlook, I see how unfortunate it is that many children don’t understand how precious and important their education is.
Despite this, I still enjoy coming to the school and being involved, knowing that I can help not only the pupils but also the teachers is great and satisfying. Being able to put into practice what I know and challenge myself feels good, on top of this I always leave having learnt something new.
So, if you haven’t considered volunteering already, you should. It doesn’t have to be at a school doing exactly what I have just spoken about, it can be anything but I guarantee you that whatever it is that you are doing or wherever it is that you are planning to volunteer, you will find it to be rewarding and satisfying. You are going to learn about yourself, develop yourself, learn new skills, meet new people.
Step outside of your comfort zone and just say YES because I can tell you now, if I didn’t do this then I know I would have regretted it.