Marjolein (centre) and her students

In September 2017, SECC changed the structure of its evening Language classes for newcomers. This new model incorporated more volunteer tutors to lead small group sessions. The time commitment for this new position at one evening per week for a four-month time period was a deterrent to some volunteers. The first person to step forward to assist was Marjolein, and she wanted to help all three nights.

When asked why she chose to volunteer with SECC, Marjolein replied, “I chose to be a volunteer because I wanted to add a dimension to my life where I could be of service to others that I could identify with. I am of the opinion that everyone in retirement should take a course, teach or tutor. It’s a time to pay it forward and put back into society a helping hand to those who need it.”

The connection between Marjolein and her students was instant. The adult students from a variety of backgrounds appreciate the time and hard work that she puts into helping them learn English. Marjolein says, “It is so rewarding and energizing to see the progress “my” students are making, not just in their language skills, but also the greater confidence they exude in their interactions as they develop. I so admire all of these students that after a day of work and family responsibilities they come to school 3 nights a week and try their best to improve their English language skills. All these people have a story to tell; the sacrifice and personal struggles they went through to come to Canada, to work here, to raise their families here and in some cases rebuild their lives. They all want to contribute to our society in a meaningful way. As an immigrant myself, I can relate to some of the daily challenges they face not just from the language perspective, but also in basic daily activities. What is easy and obvious to others can be a real struggle and source of anxiety for new immigrants – ordering a coffee in a Tim Hortons, registering your kids in school, your child’s first school birthday party, applying for a job, mapping out a bus route or doing your taxes. I am humbled by the perseverance of their efforts. The appreciation and support I receive from the SECC staff are very motivating. I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of something so important and meaningful.”

The new class structure has flourished thanks to the volunteers. In January, Marjolein and the other tutors committed to another four months of teaching to see their students through their school year. The strength of the program lies in time and dedication that the tutors put in. As an organization, we are lucky to have volunteers like Marjolein working with us to help people and improve lives in our community.

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