“I don’t think I truly understood the impact of my work at the ELC until I went to the DMV to get a Minnesota driver’s license about two months ago…”
Every Tuesday evening, Lydia and her co-teacher, Nancy, spend two hours teaching English to the students pictured here.
Lydia started volunteering at the ELC in September of 2013 as a senior at the University of Minnesota, trying to graduate by December. As part of her ESL minor, she was required to find a volunteer site with non-native English speakers.
We asked Lydia to share a little about what has kept her here since then, and this is what she said:
“I chose the ELC because it fit into my schedule, but I wound up staying past my required 30 hours because the people and the atmosphere won my heart. I have now been at the ELC for almost a full school year, and I hope to return for another.
I don’t think I truly understood the impact of my work at the ELC until I went to the DMV to get a Minnesota driver’s license (I’m originally from Wisconsin) about two months ago. There I was, breezing through my tests and paperwork, when I noticed two women in front of me in line. The women were non-native speakers and were having trouble filling out their forms. The woman at the counter turned them away, saying that she could not help them because too much information was missing. The two women wandered away, looking thoroughly confused. I was just about to go help them when another woman from the same country got there first.
I remember thinking how important it is to have language for communication, even for something as simple as driving a car. As I looked around the DMV, I started to see nothing but non-native English speakers, all struggling with the same thing–a language that they didn’t understand.
There are so many situations every day that native speakers of English take for granted. Buying food at the grocery store is not difficult because we can read the packaging and the ingredients. Going to see a doctor or a chiropractor is not a hassle because we can explain what is hurting and where. Getting a driver’s license is easy because we can understand the terminology.
For some, those everyday activities are much more complicated, and that is why I value my work at the ELC so much. I know that I am making a difference, however small, in the daily life of another person.