Training as an English Language Partners’ certificated ESOL home tutor – and being matched with a learner from Afghanistan – proved the ideal way to balance Ashok Bhat’s volunteering and work life.
Now, Ashok has taken his tutoring a step further as volunteer helper at one of the Wellington centre’s English Language Groups, 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 provided mentoring and counselling at a local school.
He came to New Zealand 10 years ago with, his wife and daughter, initially for an “adventure”. 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 that 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 for 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 it was like actually tutoring, and we had an end-of-year function as well, so it’s also been social.”
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 teacher’s work in the class, including helping learners work through a STEPS programme for English language on the computer. I really enjoy it. I think it is important migrants also volunteer as tutors if possible because they can relate to a lot of the experiences the learners are going through. I’ve put my name forward for a second home tutoring learner too. I could do that on Tuesdays before I go home.”