Volunteer Spotlight - Derek

27 October 2020 | News

We recently got the chance to have a chat with another fabulous local volunteer! Here's Derek's story of what he does as a Home Tutor with English Language Partners, and why he gives his time in this way:⁠

What do you do when you volunteer?

As a home tutor, I provide one-to-one English language tuition for people who haven't grown up speaking the language and support the learner I am paired with as they practice speaking and understanding English. The learners attend regular group classes at ELP but they also need to practice outside of that and that's where I come in. Most learners are recent migrants, but some have been here several years and are involved in one of the more advanced programs that ELP offers.
At the moment, I am paired with a learner who spoke absolutely no English when they joined the English Language Partners service. We started with nouns and then move onto verbs, and leave the grammar to last. Along the way, I also teach the learner about NZ culture and customs (and they teach me about theirs).

What is your favorite part?

Getting to see the learner succeed and how happy they are when something clicks into place. At whatever level, there's always successes.

Why did you start volunteering?

I've volunteered for most of my life in various roles but I was drawn to this particular role because of my background as a teacher and because I know that one of the most important things in life is being able to communicate. When people face barriers to communication, it can be very isolating.
I have also served as a Volunteer Chaplain with St John, I'm involved in the Ulysses Club, and I get involved with the Institute of Advanced Motorists because these are all things that I'm interested in I believe they are important for our society.

What impact does your volunteer work have?

As a home tutor, my work helps the learner to settle in and integrate into the Marlborough community (and NZ society in general). I believe that without this, many learners (who tend to be recent migrants) can be mystified by our society and our customs, and then they are more likely to withdraw instead of engaging socially. So there's a benefit to the learner but also a benefit to the wider community.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about starting volunteering?

Do it! Unless you try, you won't know if it's a good fit for you or what you can get out of it.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

People often think of volunteers as amateurs and thus less skilled, talented, or knowledgeable than professionals. However, from my time as a languages teacher, I remember that 'amateur' is a French word that originally meant someone who is passionate about something or "one who loves". I think it's important for volunteers to know that they aren't less valuable just because they aren't paid .