by Charlotte Baker
“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” – Maya Angelou
When I began volunteering for the Cape Cod Literacy Council in 2015 I chose the one-to-one option for tutoring. I have since worked with two students, both eager to improve their reading and writing skills.
Trish came to the Cape from Brazil. The mother of two girls, she wanted help with her writing because she knew she’d have to communicate with her daughters’ schools. Trish said the biggest hurdle she needed to overcome was her fear of writing. Working together, we were able to turn wordy, cluttered writing into clear and concise prose. She went on to earn a degree in Psychology and is now an advocate for Independence House, a non-profit organization that helps abused and battered women; she also volunteers at the Human Rights Commission for Barnstable and is the co-chairperson for Affirmative Action in Hyannis. “I have to use my English skills to communicate with clients,” she said. “I’m so glad I got in touch with the Literacy Council.”
My current student, Evelyn, came to the United States as a refugee from war-torn Liberia and Sierra Leone 12 years ago; she moved to the Cape almost three years ago. “I was very excited when I called the Literacy Council,” Evelyn said. “My goal was to improve my reading and writing skills to eventually work toward a GED. Then I’d like to try for a nursing assistant’s position. Charlotte’s method of reading to me and having me read it back to her has been very helpful for my pronunciation. She also has me write a story every week, which has helped me with my grammar. I’d be lost without our sessions.”
Volunteering for the Literacy Council has taught me many things. For me, tutoring is a two-way street. By teaching I get to help people who need assistance with English as a second language and help with reading and writing. In return, I get a boost of self-confidence. I also learned that people are so grateful for my assistance, which has taught me humility and empathy. There are so many ways to use our knowledge and experience to help other people in ways we never thought possible.