Of all my volunteer activities, I have found literacy tutoring one of the most rewarding. For several years, I met one-on-one with foreign-born students to help them learn to read, write, and speak English. Among these were a very fine Korean gentleman and two delightful Vietnamese ladies. The man wanted to personally welcome customers to his cafe. The ladies were hair stylists who needed to communicate better with their customers. Because I offered my help, they all achieved their goals. In addition, I made lifelong friends.
What motivated me to sign up? I heard someone condemn a salesgirl for not speaking “proper English.” How could she learn if no one teaches her? As God so often does, He turned my judgment back to myself. Joanne, what can you do to help?
Because I could not forget the pain in the young salesgirl’s eyes or God’s question, I began to search for an answer. I learned the problem is much worse than I imagined. In my area of Texas alone, over 40,000 adults need literacy training. Many are legal immigrants who hunger to be full-fledged, productive American citizens. Their biggest obstacle is our very difficult language. They may be highly educated and fluent in written English, but spoken English is very hard to master.
As well, many of our own citizens are almost illiterate. As you can imagine, their job opportunities are very limited. What a blessing to their families if they are taught to read! This one skill can lift a family from a vicious cycle of poverty. (https://www,buildon.org)
So I continued to search and found an organization nearby–Literacy Volunteers of America (www.lvamc.org). They teach volunteers how to tutor adults for whom English is a second language. They make no charge for this service and never turn away an applicant. Each volunteer spends one hour a week helping students overcome the language barrier.
Although this season of my life has passed and I am now involved in other ministries, I’d like to urge others to consider this very worthwhile service. The small investment of your time can change your students’ lives and those of their families. They can obtain their citizenship, find better jobs, help their children with their homework, speak with a doctor without an interpreter, attend church, and even read the Bible—all impossible dreams before a volunteer offered a hand.
It’s easy to find opportunities near you. Just visit America’s Literacy Directory (https://www.literacydirectory.org) and enter your zip code. Your one spare hour a week can change someone’s life forever!