Red Deer Public Library adult literacy programmer Carolyn Simard shares a laugh with library literacy volunteer Arcadio Zamora during a volunteer appreciation event at the Dawe Library Wednesday evening. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Red Deer literacy volunteers appreciated

Honouring volunteers during National Volunteer Week

Many of the 356 adult learners registered with Red Deer Public Library’s Adult Literacy Program are improving their English thanks to 195 volunteers.

On Wednesday night some of those volunteers attended the program’s annual Appreciation Night for Volunteers.

“I always thought it was something I wanted to do. I’m not a teacher but yet I thought I have a good enough understanding of the English language, I should be able to help somebody,” said Sylvia Bolkowy who has volunteered for about six years.

She was surprised just how much she enjoys being a literacy volunteer.

”I just love my students and I just love the student I have now. She’s taught me so much about her country where she came from. I listen to her stories and just what it’s like to move here,” Bolkowy said at the appreciation event held at the Dawe Branch of the public library.

Wanita Jerusalimiec, who has been a volunteer since October, said program staff are wonderful and volunteering has been a great way to meet people in the community and also to learn.

“I knew I wanted to do something in the community. I use the library a lot and have always seen people doing this one-on-one tutoring. I just thought it was something I could do to help somebody improve their English skills,” Jerusalimiec said.

Alla Mysko-Henke, literacy program manager, said since July 64 new volunteers have joined the program, which is huge.

Last January 30 volunteers came forward after Red Deer learned that Syrian refugees were coming to the city, she said.

“Based on the influx of newcomers to our community, people are more and more interested to help out,” Mysko-Henke said.

She said there are different reasons why people volunteer. Sometimes they have lived in another country and know how difficult it is to live in a different country. Others are retired and want to do something rewarding and be engaged in the community.

“The other day I registered two 19-year olds who are going through the college program and getting their education degrees.”

But she said people don’t have to be teachers to volunteer. Training and support are provided.

“You don’t need to be a teacher to be an awesome volunteer. Lots of our learners are looking for a live English speaking person to practise their English language with because they’re not exposed to much in their home environment or work environment even.

“If you speak English you already have a lot to give and a lot to contribute.”

The program is always looking for more volunteers. Right now over 80 learners are waiting for a volunteer, she said.

If Red Deerians are interested in meeting people from different cultures and are looking for a rewarding experience, this could be the volunteer program for them, Mysko-Henke said.

“Many of our volunteers say that they feel they get as much if not more than they give.”

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