By Lee-Ann Scott, Ottawa Volunteers in Education Program Director for ONFE
The year 2016 was the beginning of the arrival of Syrian refugees in Ottawa, which sparked a huge wave of support from the community, including that of volunteer Angela Beale who responded to the call to action to help newcomers learn English.
Many of us are busy going about our business and do not realize just how many newcomers arrive in Ottawa each year. Twenty-two percent of Canadians are immigrants[i]. The majority of them need English language learning support. To address this issue, the Ottawa Carleton District School Board School (OCDSB) has provided English as an Second Language (ESL) and Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) classes for adults for over 30 years. Highly trained and experienced teachers, with support from screened and trained volunteers, help newcomers develop English listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. Classes are available from pre-literacy to advanced levels, including Advanced Communication, Reading and Writing, Listening and Speaking, Workplace English, ESL Math, Academic Test Preparation, Writing & Grammar for Citizenship test, and more.[ii]
Newcomers in the LINC program at 440 Albert Street come from a wide range of countries of origin, including Afghanistan, Burma, Bhutan, Congo, Eretria, Ethiopia, Iran, Nepal, Somali, Syria, Ukraine, and Venezuela. Angela Beale is one of fifty LINC program volunteers who donate their time weekly in designated OCDSB schools to help teach English to newcomers.
Catherine Hodgins, a 22-year veteran educator, and teacher of a LINC 2/3 class at 440 Albert Street, is genuinely grateful for Angela’s help, “My class has a continuous intake of new students from September to June. A new student arrived every day this week! Everyone has an opportunity to work with Angela one-to-one or in small groups. They communicate differently in the small groups that Angela works with versus in the classroom with the entire class listening. Angela is patient and friendly with the students always giving them positive encouragement when they work with her. I appreciate how she is so flexible and ready to work on any topic that I suggest. It is so nice to have another person to help give feedback about the students.”
‘Teacher’ Angela, as her students call her, has been a refugee in the past, and this experience was part of her motivation to help Ottawa’s newcomers. Born in the United Kingdom, Angela was raised in Hong Kong. “My family were refugees in World War II. Due to life circumstances, I have lived in many different places in the world: evacuated to South Africa then moving back to Hong Kong after the war, then to Zambia, the U.K., the U.S., Canada, the U.K. again, and then back to Canada to Saskatchewan and finally to Ottawa.”
Angela keeps a journal of her students—their names and where they are from. Due to her rich life experiences, she can relate to the students on many levels. She enjoys being active and involved in the community. “I like to feel useful and volunteering provides this for me. I hope my support is genuinely helpful to the students and to Catherine. I appreciate Catherine very much. She gives me guidelines and specific tasks to do with the students. It’s excellent team work.”
Angela Beale has beautiful, sparkling violet-blue eyes that exude the joy she feels from helping others. “Volunteering in this class is a truly rewarding experience. I like the students so much. We enjoy each other’s company. We help and support each other.”
Through the Ottawa Volunteers in Education/OttawaReads Program, more than 1,500 community members are volunteering over 206,784 hours in 152 local schools to support over 58,850 students annually–a donated value of over 4 million dollars!