"I was a newcomer in Canada 67 years ago when I came here from Holland with my parents and brother. That was a long time ago but I still remember what it felt like being put in a classroom and not understanding what the teacher and the other students were saying. I just wanted to fit in. As was the custom, I was put back a year. This bothered me a lot. I'll never forget a particular teacher who understood my feelings and helped me advance to the next class.
Thirty years ago I felt drawn to the Multicultural Centre to volunteer, to help newcomers learn English like I had been helped. The volunteer work at the Multicultural Centre led to employment as a teacher. When my daughter had her first babies, twin boys, I retired from teaching and returned to volunteer tutoring and supply teaching. A few years later I took a break but couldn't stay away from the Multicultural Centre. In 2016 I came back and volunteered in the Welcome Centre. I enjoyed being back in that environment but missed helping newcomers learn English. I was given the opportunity to lead a conversation circle with a group of students from diverse backgrounds. I also enjoyed the one-on-one sessions with individual students. Since the pandemic I've been a facilitator for the Monday night Virtual English Conversation Circle. This has been a lot of fun and I enjoy hearing the students' views on various topics. They're getting to practice speaking English and I'm learning from them.
I love volunteering at the Multicultural Centre for many reasons. The atmosphere is very welcoming and I always feel appreciated. It gives me great satisfaction to see a student's face light up when he or she has understood and learned a new word.
What I've learned through volunteering alongside newcomers is to appreciate my own heritage. I am proud of still being able to read and speak Dutch. Before coming to the Multicultural Centre, I just wanted to think of myself as Canadian. Now I realize that heritage is important and we can learn from each other's cultures.
When I'm not volunteering I enjoy reading, scrap booking, biking, hiking and especially during the pandemic, baking."