“I grew up poor,” says volunteer Jon Ferreira. “But my mom read to me and said, ‘You’re going to college.’ I always had a cheerleader. Other people don’t always have this. I could only feel good about myself if I could help other people.”
Ferreira is an actor and director with national experience. He sees the connection between theater and volunteer work. “Acting is about you – the applause, the instant gratification,” he says. “Directing is about them. How can I make other people look good?” That understanding made tutoring a natural choice.
Ferreira’s background is unusual for a tutor, but he’s just like the others in one important way. “Jon has a unique set of skills,” says Mary Marin Lyon, Executive Director. “But like other tutors, he loves to help people.” Background doesn’t matter. The desire to help is what counts.
Fran Day was expecting a lot of hard work on grammar and writing when she began tutoring. Mostly, though, she and student Lee Chapman just talk.
Lee, originally from South Korea, continues to work on her English skills. The two chat weekly. Though they focus on English conversation, they also work on writing skills. Sometimes they attend events together, like Senior College. Recently, they ran into each other at a benefit walk and had fun sharing the experience.
“I like to give back,” Fran says. She’s found out more about a distant country and another woman’s life experiences. “It’s important to me to contribute, and this is a great organization.”
When Kristen Wallace first began working with Elodie, who is from Cameroon, they were instantly compatible. Still, their conversation in English was strained due to Elodie's limited English skills.
They started simply, naming and labeling the items in Elodie's apartment. They pored over sales flyers, made grocery lists, went shopping, and moved on to filling out paperwork. One day, Kristen realized that the conversation was flowing naturally.
Kristen learned a lot, too. "My perspective on so many things has changed. I am amazed by her hard work and determination. I have to tell you, volunteering in any capacity feels great, but when it is one-on-one --wow-- it brings tears to my eyes to see their appreciation for everything. And I know that in Elodie and her husband and daughter, I have friends for life."
Put a cookbook
together? Think up new gifts for students on Celebration Night each year? Develop and manage
TV ads? Janet Speranza-Moran has done all this and more. She's one of the many quiet volunteers who are not tutors, but help in others ways.
Janet has a background in Special Education and a strong belief in Literacy Volunteers. She’s volunteered for 12 years and although she worked with a student for years, she currently shares her time in different ways. She serves on the Communication Committee, which is responsible for our print and media presence. She is also on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee.
Janet would be the
first to say that Literacy Volunteers has room for every talent, whether you
want to tutor or bring other skills to the table. Why not give it a try?
Sally knows that if a person's ability to read is limited, his or her future is limited as well. That is a big reason she became a tutor. "I wanted to get involved in supporting reading. I actually went to school to become a teacher but never got into the profession," Sally says. After doing some tutoring on her own, Sally contacted Literacy Volunteers and took the tutor training.
What she hadn’t counted on was how enriching the tutoring would be for her. Her first student was a middle-aged man whose goal was to read the Bangor Daily News. Sally had a contact at the paper who gave the man a tour. It helped motivate him and he eventually met his goal. Sally celebrated with him.
Her next student was a woman in her twenties who needed help to get through Job Corps. Again, with Sally's time and encouragement the student was able to achieve her goal.
"I cared for both of them very much," recalls Sally. "It was a big, enriching effort for me. You don't just teach them to read. You get involved with their lives."
People get involved with Literacy Volunteers for different reasons. Often it is because something in their own lives triggers the desire to be part of something bigger than themselves. That was the case for Charlotte Fitzgerald. Charlotte’s husband Andy hadn’t graduated from high school and had difficulty reading and writing. Over the years, Charlotte helped him learn enough to get by.
Then Andy suffered an injury that made him unable to work at his construction job. The family was at a crossroads. That’s when Andy decided it was time to finally get his high school diploma. Again, Charlotte supported him, and he succeeded.
Watching Andy cope with his challenges made Charlotte think about how many others struggle with basic literacy. She decided to make some changes herself. She enrolled in college, and she also began volunteering at Literacy Volunteers.
“My motto is, you’re never too old to learn, whether it’s reading and writing or whatever it is you want to do,” says Charlotte.