We are over four and a half months into remote working due to COVID-19, and it has been exciting to see how New AP staff, clients and volunteers have adapted to this change. We want to highlight three volunteers this month who have continued to volunteer during this time, providing remote tutoring to English at Home clients via video chats, text messaging, and other forms of technology.
Doug Wiley is a retired sales and marketing executive who has been a faithful volunteer at New American Pathways since 2016. He has helped clients learn how to ride MARTA, set up apartments, and done voter registration. Much of his volunteering has been hands on and in person, including his most recent experience teaching English at Home. He says that conducting the session virtually and one on one created a new learning experience. There was some initial trepidation but he reports that it is working out really well. Doug says, “It is especially gratifying and inspiring to witness the dedication and steady progress of the man I am tutoring who is now adding English as his 4th language. I am looking forward to the day he will achieve his goal of US Citizenship and celebrating that accomplishment together.”
Susan Walton is another New AP volunteer who has tutored new Americans through our English at Home program both in person and virtually. Susan is a native Georgian and has been married to her husband Bob for 35 years. She is a retired art teacher and has been volunteering for a year and a half. She talks about volunteering virtually as being a different experience because she had to meet the most recent family she was paired with virtually instead of in person. Meeting in person allows her to get a better feeling for the whole family’s interaction in their home, but she and the family she is working with are making the best of the situation. Susan advises potential volunteers that “If you feel called to do this, definitely give it a try. It’s a great feeling to know I’m helping and they are looking forward to our time together.”
Becky Custar is a retired high school English and ESOL teacher. She has a heart for helping new Americans and sees her volunteering as the best way she can help them feel empowered as they become successful in a new culture. She has been a volunteer since January of 2020, so she had a couple months of in person tutoring before she and the family she was paired with had to move to a virtual format. She said that the various technology they’ve used has not stood in their way as they’ve continued their sessions together and that she has learned some new skills along the way. She hopes to plan a socially distanced picnic with the family she is tutoring at a park in a few months. Becky says “I think remote volunteering/teaching might not be what a volunteer expected or imagined, but you can still feel positive about helping someone improve their English and so improve their ability to be successful in their New American Pathway.”
English at Home AmeriCorps Member Sarah Clay has worked closely with these three volunteers and describes their dedication and willingness to take on the challenges of remote volunteering as incredibly encouraging to her. She notes that many of the volunteers providing English at Home tutoring are doing even more sessions with their students now than before, and everyone has adapted to this new environment, even if it was not comfortable for them. Sarah says, “The volunteers inspire me to work harder because they work so hard to help their students!” We are so grateful for the many volunteers who continue to support new Americans during this time. If you’d like to join us as a volunteer in our English at Home program, check out our volunteer opportunities page.