Meet Patricia: Volunteering to Help
Updated: May 31
My name is Patricia Younger. I was born in Canada, as were my parents. My husband and I lived in Ottawa for our entire careers but, after we retired, we moved to Brockville in 2014.
In 2015, I was impressed when I heard about Brockville’s positive and generous response to the Syrian Refugee crisis. I was quick to join Agape Brockville, a sponsorship effort between St. Paul’s and St. Lawrence Anglican Churches and St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church. In addition to our financial support, I volunteered to make calls, collect items and help with the setting up of new homes.
Late in 2015, when the first refugee families started to arrive, the Brockville Public Library, in conjunction with TR Leger School, started hosting beginner English classes. I joined a large group of enthusiastic and committed volunteers from the Leeds Grenville area to help teach English to small classes of individuals with no knowledge of English. Some volunteers were retired teachers and their experience and insights were very helpful. My dad had been a teacher, but I never had any interest in it, as my education and career were in financial management. But teaching English to newcomers changed my life. In 2017, keen to improve my skills, I enrolled in a course in Ottawa and obtained certification for teaching English as a foreign language (EFL).
As more students arrived, tutorials became necessary for people at an advanced level of English, or who had to stay at home because they had small children. Starting in 2016, I began tutorials with new arrivals, and with immigrants (through another program at the Library). In 2020, it was disappointing not to have classes because of Covid. One student was available on Skype, but it was difficult, as she had an active toddler. In 2021, as things opened up, two people became available for tutorials, but we aren’t meeting in the Library which still helps us with resources and copying. Even though physical contact was limited during Covid, I learned that there was still an active network of volunteers throughout Leeds Grenville, supporting and encouraging newcomers. I also realized that I had gotten to really like the students and missed them and look forward to a new “normal” for teaching.
The “Discover Canada” booklet, which is the study guide for the Citizenship Test that I use with EFL students, contains a section called “Citizenship Responsibilities - Helping Others in the Community”. It makes the point very strongly that volunteering is an excellent way to gain useful skills and develop friends and contacts. Although Covid measures have slowed down the number of people entering Canada, many Leeds Grenville organizations, including Agape Brockville, are planning to sponsor more refugees. Volunteers will again be needed to help people settle into their new homes and new lives. I encourage anyone remotely interested to find out how you can help. You might be surprised by what you can do!