Published in The Standard, March 8, 2013
SOUTH West TAFE is welcoming people of all ages to become volunteer tutors and teach migrants English and social skills.
The English as a second language (ESL) volunteer tutor program started more than 10 years ago and has helped hundreds of migrants build promising lives for themselves in Australia.
Program co-ordinator Alana Gleeson said the program was valuable for volunteers and migrants.
“If migrants can’t speak English they are just sitting at home unable to participate in society, unable to access higher education, employment or even make friends in the community,” she said.
“As for the benefits for volunteers, not only do they expose themselves to a whole new culture but they also see the person they’re helping really blossom.”
When Sudanese migrant Madlina Odhok arrived in Australia almost two years ago she couldn’t speak English and knew little about her new community.
She found herself isolated and faced significant language and cultural barriers.
However, through home visits and support from volunteer tutor Anne Drew, Ms Odhok’s English language skills and cultural understanding flourished.
“Anne taught me how to do the shopping and gave me confidence to become more involved in the community,” she said.
“Now I can read to my two sons and I can also understand when somebody leaves a message on my phone.”
Ms Drew also helped her learn to ride a bike and taught her road safety rules so she could get a driver’s licence.
With Ms Drew’s help Ms Odhok has started a hair braiding business.
Her future aspirations include attending university and becoming a police officer.
Michael Maine has been volunteering with the program for almost five years.
“It’s very rewarding to watch them become more confident and improve with everyday things.”
Volunteers, who are needed across the region, undergo training in April before mentoring a student once a week.