Although Sandy Fraser migrated to New Zealand from South Africa almost 23 years ago, she still remembers the challenges in settling into a new home.
“I have an understanding of the difficulties that we encountered when we moved here, bearing in mind it was much much easier for us because we’ve grown up with the same sort of social background,” she recalls.
With that memory in the back of her mind, Sandy could only imagine the types of difficulties and challenges faced by refugees and new migrants arriving in New Zealand who have very little English experience.
She’d heard from close friends about their rewarding experiences teaching English and with some extra time on her hands and a strong desire to give back to her country, Sandy looked at volunteering at English Language Partners, New Zealand’s largest organisation working with refugees and migrants.
“I wanted to do something for people who’ve had it much tougher than my family did when we came to New Zealand,” Sandy tells Over60.
English Language Partners’ mission is to help refugees and migrants learn English so they can pursue their aspirations and participate in all aspects of life in Aotearoa New Zealand struck a chord with Sandy.
Sandy was paired up with Sahriani, an Indonesian woman with two young boys, for home lessons over 12 weeks (lesson they’ve already renewed for another three months).
Sahriani shows off her new English skills, telling Over60, “I like study English but we need learn more, because my English no good.”
But Sandy, who has affectionately nicknamed Sahriani “Ani”, quickly interjects, praising Ani’s eagerness to learn English and her steady improvements over the last three months.
“Ani is very enthusiastic and very diligent. She does a lot of stuff on her own. I spend just over an hour with her on a weekly basis but she’s very keen and does a lot on her own,” she says, adding, “I just hope she makes the sort of progress with me that she’s expecting to make!”
Asked about how she feels about improving her English, Ani replies, shyly but eagerly, “I feel good, I like it, I really like it. I think every week I get more confident.”
After her lessons with Sandy, Ani does a lot of English-practising on her own, even getting as involved as she can in her seven-year-old son’s school reading.
“Sometimes he [my son] helps me,” she chimes in.
For Sandy, volunteering has been a wonderful and incredibly rewarding experience.
“For me personally, I think it’s easy for English-speaking people to settle in the country, because they don’t sound any different – well accent excluded. You fit into the local scheme of things quite easily. For anybody who had no English, the society feels different, it’s hard,” she says.
“If I can make the slightest bit of different to helping Annie and her family feel settled in New Zealand, that’s all I can really ask for. Because it’s a brilliant country I am incredibly privileged to be living here and I want Ani to feel the same way.”
Sandy not only relishes helping eager learners like Ani, but loves the chance to form friendships with our newest New Zealanders.
“I find that I think about Ani a lot and I enjoy being with her and she has the most gorgeous little boy. He’s a cutie pie. I just hope she’s getting as much out of it as I am,” Sandy reveals.
If you’re looking for a similar chance to change people’s lives, Sandy cannot speak highly enough of English Language Partners help and support.
“English Language Partners are very thorough in their training and there’s a lot of help and support from the office. If I have any doubts about what I am doing, they are always there and incredibly helpful,” says Sandy. “I am very pleased that there is that level of training and support.”
Original article at: www.oversixty.co.nz