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Dear future volunteer, do something that matters

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lauri Chan, a first-year volunteer tutor at Alta’s Maraval Assumption Parish Centre class, writes:

Dear future volunteer,

Like you, I already knew I wanted to do something, something real, something that mattered. I wanted to be an active part of positive change, and surround myself with like-minded people. I wanted to look outside of my own life and daily problems and engage in something bigger. I was tired of listening to the heavy and repetitive complaints launched by citizens with no intention to lend a hand in the solution. They want someone else to fix it, but who?

Dear future volunteer, I’ve had these thoughts many times. When I came across an Alta advertisement for new volunteers, it piqued my interest right away, but a fear of commitment came over me like a fog and stayed there. It took me two years to finally call the Alta office and it forever changed the way I view the human spirit.

After I decided to stop letting an aversion to commitment keep me back from what I really wanted to do in this life, I felt free. The first step was a casual interview at the Alta office in Belmont. I could have told the butterflies in my stomach to go home, because the interview is really just a conversation. Alta simply wanted to be sure that I was serious about becoming a tutor before I embarked on the training.

The second step was to attend eight consecutive classes as an observer. That first classroom experience solidified my decision that I wanted to be an Alta tutor.

The class was so warm and welcoming. Students were lively and unafraid to speak out during the lesson. The questions flowed, the answers came and I was lucky enough to see the light of understanding go off in a student’s eyes after much frustration with an exercise. Finally, I thought, something real, something that mattered.

The third step was a six-week training course where I learned the techniques needed to effectively teach a literacy class. The training took place on a Saturday, so it did not affect my Monday to Friday job. During the training, my perspective changed on quite a few things.

The one thing that stood out the most was Alta’s attitude toward language. I’ve since then thrown out my language arrogance—at Alta we accept students as they are and respect the English Creole many of us speak. If the purpose of language is to communicate a message and have it understood, then what’s the problem with “Trini slang?” Reading and writing isn’t about English perfection, it’s about communicating in print. Showing students that what they say, just the way they say it, can be written is empowering.

My worrisome mind was also put at ease when I saw just how methodical and error-proof Alta’s way of teaching was. All of the lessons are carefully planned. I need only follow the instructions laid out for me in the handbook, apply the techniques I learned in training and add a little of my own enthusiasm to keep the students active and interested during class.

Dear future volunteer, my students taught me that new readers are not new thinkers. There is a wealth of experience, opinion and intellectual thought just waiting to be put on paper. What will they teach you?

ALTA needs volunteers to teach at classes across Trinidad for academic year September 2015 to June 2016.

Call 624-ALTA (2582)/653-4656 /664-2582 to schedule an interview and begin the process of becoming an Alta tutor.

Volunteers are unpaid. Volunteer, donate, sponsor a student.

Find us on Facebook: Alta Trinidad. 


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