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Gaining new friends by teaching English

August 8, 2019

Imagine trying to make a doctor’s appointment, fill in bank forms, or go shopping without being able to speak or read English?

That’s the situation facing many women being supported by Emerge but for two, they have the assistance of volunteer Amy Sandler Roberts who is helping them to find their way around their new community.  Often women are learning to be independent for the first time since fleeing their homes to escape violence.

Amy has been volunteering with Emerge for a year, visiting two women from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds to help improve them improve their English.

“The main purpose is to help them feel more comfortable in society as they adjust to a life free from violence,” Amy said.

“On the surface, my role is about improving their English so they are better prepared to battle through the maze of looking for work, going shopping, making appointments – the grind of daily life,” Amy said.

The reality, though, is much more. She has become a source of support assisting them to understand paperwork they may have to complete, being a friend, helping to find supplies for their kids as needed or household goods.

Amy is the first to admit that the volunteering can be challenging. Sometimes visits are cancelled at the last minute due to illness or other appointments. But these moments are rare.

“The high point is the happiness my visits bring, and that I take from the visits too,” she says. “One of the women insists on sharing a meal with me every time I come, saying it is better to eat with ‘family’. I have been introduced to some amazing foods.”

Amy is a long-term volunteer, having started as a teenager visiting older people in a nearby nursing home. She occasionally volunteers with AMES, a refugee and migrant not for profit, and is a frequent volunteer at her daughter’s school canteen. She also works part-time in allied health and a mother to three children with busy lives.

For her, however, the time with the women has changed the way she has thought about family violence and women experiencing violence.

“They are strong and brave and proud. They have endured a great deal, more than many other people I know, and they have had to change their lives drastically to escape violence. It is a humbling experience for me, making me try not to sweat the small stuff of my privileged life,” Amy said.

She has a simple message for those considering volunteering with Emerge.

“Give it a go. You have nothing to lose and a considerable lot to gain. I am now friends with two people whose lives are so different from mine, and whom I would have never had the opportunity to meet otherwise.”

For more information on how to volunteer with Emerge please contact:

Michelle Lavigne

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