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Volunteering During a Pandemic

Posted December 14, 2020

Prace volunteer Philip with EAL student Sameer on Zoom during covid-19 pandemic.

COVID turned our world upside down this year, it’s impacted our students, staff AND our volunteers. Back in March, as our courses pivoted to remote learning, the volunteer team had to adapt and it’s opened up some wonderful opportunities.

Meet Philip, he is a semi-retired TAFE teacher who started volunteering with PRACE at the beginning of 2020. He found assisting in the introductory computer class a lot of fun, however it came to an abrupt end when COVID hit. 

Fast forward to June when Deb, our Volunteer Coordinator asked Philip if he could support our English as an Additional Language (EAL) students. Despite some initial teething problems with working remotely, Philip soon found a routine that worked well for the students. 

During sessions with students, Philip uses online EAL resources and English readers with audio to assist with their English language practice. By using screen sharing, he can work together with students to work through the readers, hearing the audio with each page. 

For Philip, seeing students slowly improve over time and begin to understand and speak the language has been marvellous. Volunteering during the pandemic has also had the added benefit of providing Philip with something to engage in while in lockdown at home. The volunteering sessions have become ‘anchor points’ in his week and something he looks forward to.

For Philip, the most rewarding thing about volunteering at Prace is being able to use his skills to help others. He is currently assisting Sameer, an entry level EAL student. He has been really encouraged by Sameer’s progress – when Sameer reads a sentence without any prompting, his face lights up. For Philip that really is the reward, helping someone to navigate this new language.