How did you get involved with A Faith That Does Justice?
My dad, Bill Anderson, goes to Saint Cecelia Parish in Boston and was asked to do some organizing for the A Faith That Does Justice ESOL program. He asked me if I wanted to be involved. I had just gotten over a long-term injury and had a long recovery, so this was a great transition back into being active. I tried it out and really enjoyed it. I have been volunteering for about a year.
Tell us about your role.
I most often serve as a tutor and I support the ESOL teachers. I interact with the students one-on-one or in groups and I help them with problems they are having or help them practice their English. During the lessons, I interject with information I think they might benefit from learning and when the primary teachers are absent, I occasionally teach lessons.
Do you speak another language?
No, you can teach ESOL just speaking English. I took some Spanish classes about 20 years ago so there are a few words I remember. I use Google Translate if needed, but we mostly speak English so that its an immersive environment. The research supports that the more English you speak, the faster people learn.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
I try to put myself in the place of people who have immigrated to the US. I think about how much better my experience in another country, where I didn’t speak the language, would be if there were loving and supportive people willing to help me speak the language. That would be a great comfort to me, so I find giving that comfort to others rewarding.
Tell us about the students.
I am just so impressed with people who dedicate their abilities to learning this language. The people come for free, but they invest their time and they come to every class. They study at home; they practice and participate in class. They have lives and jobs aside from this, but they still find the time to come in the evenings. The students are just really dedicated to improving themselves and I find that to be inspiring. It’s impressive and meaningful, and the fact that they keep returning shows me that they are getting something out of this. That’s so encouraging to me.
Tell us one little known fact about yourself.
I use a wheelchair for mobility and when I was a kid, I had a service dog. We were profiled in an award-winning Austrian documentary.
You can learn more about our ESOL program on our blog here.