So Cynthia, When did you first start volunteering with us?
I started in January of this year at the Terry White Centre conversation group.
That was January 2022, what drew you to volunteering with SAVTE?
I was volunteering at the Newfield Green Library, and a conversation group was held there prior to 2022 and then COVID hit. So that changed everything, but the local primary school often came in and one of my duties was as a storyteller. The majority of the children from there were born overseas and so they would actually be teaching their parents English through the learning which they got as well and so I thought it looked interesting. But at that time, I was busy with the library. So I couldn’t really do anything about it but then some of the people from my church who are Nepalese refugees were applying for their residency here and were looking for English classes. They needed to get through their Life in the UK tests as well and all of these things combined led me to volunteering for SAVTE.
Why did you decide to get involved with supporting a conversation group?
I was already helping people as a one to one in the library and then I thought, do I have the confidence to go further with this? Well, I was storytelling to these primary school children which was something very small and then started helping the adults and that was a little bit more challenging so I decided to have a go at supporting a group of adult learners with conversation.
How did you find it when you started? What did you think?
It was good. Yes. It gave me another insight into it. And the first group that I attended, there were probably about 10 learners there and they were all from many different countries as well. So it was very rich culturally in language and the activities we were doing were really varied too.
What do you enjoy about being there? And supporting the activities?
Well, I’m learning as well! Learning never comes to an end even when you get to a certain age! I’m enjoying supporting people in the conversation group, helping them to find places, answering questions about Sheffield and talking about what’s going on in the city.. And also, it’s a very sociable group, one person particularly enjoys doing the hospitality, we always have refreshments, making cups of tea together.
How did you hear about volunteering?
It was through the library and one of the team there gave my name to Kerry at SAVTE and then Kerry got in touch and I got to see what it was about. I thought I would take another, new journey.
How are you finding the training course you’re doing with SAVTE now?
It’s good. I’m still learning and I mean, I went to school such a long time ago. And it’s sort of digging back into those very early stages of learning the English language. Although when I changed schools, as we relocated all the children who were Caribbean African background, we were sent to the language centre to see if we could speak English. So it has given me an insight into what’s happening now. SAVTE assess the learners before they go on to conversation groups.
What are you enjoying on the course currently?
It’s great being here and being with the other volunteers and hearing their stories and also their desire to give back what’s been given to them. Which is the same with myself as well in a different sort of way. I thoroughly enjoy all the sessions – recently we talked about Sheffield and I really liked listening to everyone’s stories about Sheffield and the attractions that folks are wanting to go and visit as well. Sheffield has so much to do – a lot of it is free as well.
So what advice would you give someone that’s thinking about volunteering?
Check it out first – go onto the SAVTE website. Take a look at what they actually do and go away and think about it and then make a telephone call or take it a step further just to find out more from someone at SAVTE – just the ins and outs of it and what the commitment would need to be as well.
What would you say to someone is the best aspect? What’s the best bit of volunteering for you?
The variety of people, the richness of the cultures as well. And then for those who are involved, it’s wonderful too. It’s just the satisfaction of knowing that, even if it’s just one person who you have helped to join in and participate in the conversation groups, you’ve helped them improve their English language skills and they may even have gone on to college or onto a job thanks to this.
Interested in Volunteering? If you would like to meet new people, learn new skills, and gain confidence and experience, you can apply to Volunteer with SAVTE.