Helping one another


On a good day, you can see all the way to Te Anau and the Hump Ridge Track,” says Trish Marshall of the family’s third generation farm at Pukemaori.

While looking forward to more reading time in the idyllic setting when she retired from a nursing career, Trish was concerned she might end up “Glued to an armchair with a book”.

Instead, she made a personal commitment to “become involved in things.”

She joined Rural Women NZ, took up armchair yoga, began volunteering for Victim Support and trained as an ESOL home tutor with English Language Partners.

Trish Marshall with husband Russell

Since December, Trish has been working with learner Islam Rabai’ah, a young Jordanian woman. Islam’s English is not only improving, she now has the confidence to catch a bus, which enables her to attend classes at English Language Partners’ Southland centre.

“We’re helping one another,” says Trish, who makes a two-hour round trip every Wednesday to spend the afternoon working with Islam in Invercargill.

“I wanted to do something to keep my brain ticking over. My husband Russell and I have two children living overseas and we’ve travelled a lot, so have an interest in other cultures. I’ve always loved words and I found the training interesting, a lot of stuff rolled over from my nursing days, around privacy and documentation and respecting boundaries.”

Islam was a geography teacher in Jordan but moved to New Zealand, with three year-old son Habib, to join her husband Belal Rashaideh, who works installing air conditioning.

“Islam is smart and eager to learn,” says Trish. “She’s  a knowledge sponge, just soaks it up. She knew quite a few English words but needed to practise her English and build confidence.

“I teach her what she wants to know, that’s what leads our learning activities.”

“For instance, we went to the supermarket and I had a trolley and she had a trolley. I just checked with her every so often. Then, when we got to the tills, she went through the checkout herself.

ELP volunteer Trish and her learner Islam

“Next time she wanted to get groceries, we were going for lunch. So I dropped her outside the supermarket while I parked and by the time I’d found a space she’d got what she needed and was walking to meet me.”

Trish says using public transport was a novel experience for both.

“One day Islam said, ‘Can we go on a bus?’ Dear lord, I hadn’t been on a bus for 40 or 50 years. So we went on an Invercargill City Bus and she got her ticket and loved it.”

Other learning outings have included the library, where Trish is encouraging Islam to take her son for ‘parent and child’ reading sessions.

“Sometimes we go out for lunch. It’s great to see Islam do things we take for granted, like reading the menu or ordering a coffee,” says Trish.

“I’m keen for her to meet more young mums her age. There are young people in her English class and I’ve introduced her to a lady who is involved with the mosque, who’s good at connecting people."

“Islam’s very social. She wants to be out in the world to have the English skills to enable her to work. She will get there, for sure.”

“Islam invited Russell and I over for tea. She and I yakked away, and Russell and Islam’s husband yakked away.”

“We’re looking forward to getting them over to the farm again. I think they’ll enjoy that.”

Patricia Thompson | Photos Gayle Clearwater

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