Volunteering – from India to Aotearoa | ELPNZ

Volunteering – from India to Aotearoa

02 December 2016

When Ashok first moved to New Zealand, he found it hard to find suitable volunteering that he could balance with his work. However, training as an English Language Partners certified ESOL home tutor – and being matched with a learner from Afganistan – proved the ideal solution.

Now, with support from his employers, who let him work flexible hours, Ashok has taken his tutoring a step further as volunteer helper at one of the Wellington centres English Language Groups (ELG), where he also helps learners with online learning.

In his home city of Mumbai, Ashok had combined his engineering career with volunteer work: teaching basic computer skills to underprivileged children and providing mentoring and counselling at a local school.

He, his wife and daughter came to New Zealand ten years ago, initially for an “adventure” after he was invited to fill a skills gap for transmission line engineers. “My wife and daughter fell in love with New Zealand instantly and wanted to stay”, he said. “It took me a little longer to make the decision, but now I love Wellington too, particularly the space and how easy it is to get around without crowds and traffic jams everywhere”.

Ashok was already proficient in English when he moved to New Zealand – his degree studies in Mumbai had been conducted in English. Keen to begin volunteering, he found it hard to find anything suited to his skills that he could do at weekends.

“Then, last year someone told me they were training as an ESOL home tutor in Porirua, so I rang the Wellington centre and applied fro their training programme”, he said.

“I really enjoyed the course. It sets out clearly what you need to know and what is expected of you and I enjoyed meeting all different people from other professions and cultures. I began home tutoring last August. My training group had a one day session after we’d started teaching, so we could catch up and talk about what is was like actually tutoring, and we had an end of year function as well, so it’s also being social.”

Ashok’s first learner came to New Zealand as a refugee and is particularly keen to improve his English skills to support his aim of finding employment. He is doing a private training course on English, which delivers NZQA qualifications, and Ashok supports him in that.

“I am also teaching him about computers and numeracy”, said Ashok. “He is doing well and getting good marks in his studies. It’s very satisfying to see the improvements he’s making.”

Keen to help further, Ashok asked the English Language Partners team if there were any other ways he could contribute. They suggested the ELG role which initially meant supporting the teacher with the learners in class. But given his proficiency in computers, he took on the task of supplementing the class teaching with an online programme.

“I support the teachers work in the class, including helping learners work through a STEPS programme for English language on the computer. It’s one-to-one and helps them to identify sounds, pronunciation and spelling.

“I really enjoy it. I think it is important migrants also volunteer as tutors because they can relate to a lot of the experiences the learners are going through. I have put my name forward for a second learner too.”

Emma Stein, Training and Tutor Support Coordinator, said the support of Ashok and other volunteers was hugely valuable.

“Our volunteers are a huge asset to us and Ashok’s commitment and enthusiasm is a prime example of that. Nothing is too much trouble for him. You give him a project and he just takes it onboard and gets on with it.”

STEPS programme: learningstair case.co.nz/adults/english-learners/

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