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End of the year get-together

Award winners: Stanley Canning, ETP Coordinator, Haifa; Juliet Rostovsky, Co-coordinator ESRA Volunteer Division; Leah Soncino, volunteer tutor; and Patty Montgomery, volunteer tutor

ESRA's English Tutoring Program (ETP), under the leadership of Michael Levinson, the new national coordinator, is on the up and up. The ETP is an excellent example of the policy of "Strength through Diversity", which the honorary president of ESRA, Merle Guttmann, referred to in her remarks at the recent AGM. There are volunteers who help pupils with their English studies from the very first grades when they begin to learn English, and those who focus only on chatting with Bagrut pupils in preparation for their oral exams in English. None of the volunteers are qualified English teachers but get guidance from the English teachers in the schools where they volunteer.

At the end of June, the Haifa branch of the ETP, under the leadership of Stanley Canning, organized an end of year meeting of volunteers with two representatives from the Ministry of Education's English Inspectorate, Elian Lassman and Liraz Cohen Kadosh. In Haifa the focus of the ETP is in elementary and middle schools.

Juliet Rostowsky and I, who are the coordinators of ESRA's Volunteer Division, travelled by train to Haifa to attend the meeting. Michael Levinson was away on vacation and thus unable to attend.

I gave a brief review of how hard the ESRA office has been working to bring this important ESRA project to the attention of municipalities and schools wherever ESRA has branches in order to make them aware of the program, and to enroll their support. Their response had been so positive that there are now more schools wanting volunteers than we can accommodate. So it's really important for volunteers in the program to tell friends about it so that we can increase our numbers and help more pupils.

Elian expressed her gratitude for the contribution of ESRA volunteers in helping pupils with their English studies. "Although you are not qualified teachers you should know that whatever you do has great influence in the life of the children you sit with," she said.
Elian is so determined to make the project successful that she has enrolled the help of her English counselor who will contact schools where volunteers want to go and "open doors" for them. We in ESRA are hoping that this excellent level of cooperation will also be extended to other areas.

Then we heard from the volunteers themselves. Let me say there are volunteers and there are volunteers. Some expect special treatment because they think they are doing the schools a favor by helping pupils with their English. Then there are others who understand that the essence of volunteering is in the giving, that when you give you get back.

Leah Soncino emphasized that she would sit wherever they put her in the school. "I would even sit in a corridor on a little chair," she said. "I love working with these children whom I feel are like my own. I try to catch their interest by making what we do relevant to their own lives. Now it's the time of the World Cup so I taught them the names of colors by talking about the colors of the teams participating."
Patty Montgomery spoke of the school where she tutors, telling us that she was sure some of the children come to school hungry from homes where the parents don't take much interest in their education. She recounted an incident when one of her pupils didn't show much interest in learning the words she was teaching so she let him be and noticed he'd begun to draw. It turned out that this child had enormous talent that would never have been spotted by a teacher in a class of more than forty kids.

With tears in her eyes she said she could really see how much a volunteer can help teachers struggling to manage with their big classes and wished that more volunteers would come forward to offer help. "The reward is the satisfaction of knowing that the life of a child can be turned around by an English-speaking volunteer whose main contribution is just being there for the kids."

In a follow-up letter she wrote:

"And here's a sweet moment that just happened today. It was my last day volunteering, and as I was walking down the hall to the principal's office, I came across Ilan, the boy from the story. I normally don't volunteer in his class, so this was something arranged by 'Someone' higher up! We spoke in Russian, and I was able to speak kind words to him, letting him know that he's smart, he's special and he DOES have a future. I told him I saw the good in him and that I wanted him to hear how much I think of him. I walked away grateful God took the time for this young boy to hear praise, affirmation and hope.

Thank you, Lola and Juliet, for all your hard work organizing this volunteer service. I hope you're encouraged to see another glimpse and proof that your efforts are not in vain. The children need you and all the volunteers thank you again."

At the end of the meeting Juliet presented certificates of appreciation to the volunteer tutors.

More tutors are urgently needed for Haifa. Call Stanley 04845 8907. 

 

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Wednesday, 22 September 2021

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