21
Dec

Volunteer extraordinaire

Volunteers

Varun Keri arrived from India in February, just as Covid-19 was beginning to impact around the globe.

It’s been an interesting first Kiwi year for Varun! An international master’s student at the University of Auckland, Varun believes in the concept of lifelong learning.

“This keeps me wanting to explore further. And I also get inspired a lot by nature and what it has to offer.”

In June, after emerging from lockdown, Varun saw an advertisement on SEEK asking for volunteers to teach English on Auckland’s North Shore.

“I applied straightaway. Fortunately for me, it was the beginning of a long-term association with English Language Partners (ELP).”

The idea of empowering migrants and refugees through English was something he connected with immediately.

“I could feel what ELP wants to do, and I’m amazed by the impact created by the organisation in New Zealand. And I think the success stories speak for the quality of ELP’s work.”

One standout memory Varun has about volunteering was finishing his first 12 weeks’ teaching his Chinese learner. “I could see the happiness in his eyes. For me, that moment was very special. I was able to witness the fruits of my efforts.”

Varun said volunteering was a surprising experience. “It’s the freshness. I thought my learner wouldn’t like it after a period. But now it feels like a game where you keep unlocking levels and keep learning further.”

A classroom at English Language Partners North Shore centre

Comfort level was, without a doubt, the biggest challenge. “I didn’t meet my learner until my first class, so it was difficult to gauge what he knew and wanted. Training was helpful preparation, but execution with the learner was initially tough.”

Another challenge was adapting to online learning. “We moved online during Auckland’s Covid-19 lockdown. I was worried if my learner would be comfortable doing that.”

Varun decided not to hurry to find a solution. “I allowed myself and my learner to take time before actually learning the language. We tried to find commonalities to nurture and used that connection to drive the teaching-learning.”

He says volunteering  taught there are many ways of looking at the same thing. “It is important to respect the point of view of others.”

Varun definitely recommends volunteering.

“I want others to experience this feeling and look at how to contribute to doing something good and helping others.”

Our thanks to Murajia Mikaeil, North Shore volunteer, who interviewed Varun for this story.

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