Over 1,000 people lend a hand, supporting new New Zealanders as they navigate the daily struggle of life in an unfamiliar country. Helping former refugees and migrants to meet this massive challenge are some of Aotearoa's special people: English Language Partners’ (ELP) ‘superstar’ volunteers.
Many volunteer because they’ve had similar experiences. “When I’ve lived overseas, I’ve been greatly helped by the kindness of strangers,” says David Bromell, who’s volunteered for 12 years and is currently ELP’s acting Chief Executive.
Volunteering with English Language Partners is how I like to give back.
Every week, volunteer tutors visit new Kiwis at home for an hour or two, teaching English and ‘all things Aotearoa’. David says this generous gift of time helps give new Kiwis a fair go.
Just imagine how hard it must be to access health or education services or get a job when you’re only beginning to learn English.
David says that as newcomers gain confidence to talk to other Kiwis, develop networks and settle in here, a sense of belonging grows.
The relationship between tutors and learners often creates a strong connection between the two. It's a connection David describes as a dynamic bridge between cultures, through mutual ‘gifting and gaining'.
As volunteering is a two-way street, in choosing to help others, tutors often discover there are many volunteering benefits for themselves.
Many volunteers report that alongside friendships, tutoring helps them develop new skills, increases personal wellbeing, and builds their understanding and empathy for other cultures.
“I love interacting with people from other cultures,” says Eleanor, a Christchurch-based volunteer. “Our journeys through life are so different! I’ve learnt a lot from their resilience, courage, humour and patience.”
“The thing I love most is I can learn about new cultures of countries that I could never travel to myself,” says another. “Seeing my learner's experiences of discovering a new city gives me the opportunity to see where I live through different eyes.”
As a result of their work, ELP’s volunteers also bring other special, often unrecognised, benefits to New Zealand. They help build a more welcoming, inclusive society that can make space for newcomers and diversity.
National Volunteer Week 2022 is aptly themed ‘Time to Shine - He wā pīataata’.
“At ELP, we’ve been training volunteers for over 40 years,” says David. "I want to thank our wonderful volunteers who shine like the stars and help new Kiwis navigate paths to belonging and participation."
Is it your time to shine? Join us and volunteer for a better Aotearoa!