The Senior Connections program at CCIS (Calgary Catholic Immigration Society) matches volunteer tutor hosts with immigrant seniors who want to learn basic English and/or improve their English language skills. Some of the seniors have learned English in their home country, but want help with pronunciation and grammar. A bigger challenge for our tutors is those persons who have no English language skills and may not even have been literate in their first language. Along with learning basic communication, many times there is a need to learn daily life skills within the community as well. Our tutor hosts take on this role as the need arises. An additional role may be that of computer tutor, as many of our learners want to stay in touch with those "back home". Another role may be the literacy side of health...reading and following a prescription label.
Our tutor hosts work off-site at times and locations that are convenient for both partners of the match, usually this is once a week for approx. 2 hours. The partnership continues as long as there is fulfillment for the volunteer tutor and a need expressed by the learner. Some of our matches are into their 4th or 5th year. In many cases, a volunteer may continue the role, but with a different client/learner. We have an excellent volunteer retention rate.
In some scenarios, we have a classroom- based model and/or learning circle, where a group of learners help and support one another under the guidance of an instructor.
The majority of our tutors are seniors themselves who realize that this type of volunteering fits well into their current life style. We do have younger tutors who, in spite of busy schedules, find time to give so freely for this most rewarding volunteer service; where they say they have an opportunity to continue on a learning path for themselves while sharing their knowledge with those who have the desire to learn.
As well as our regular matches, we have a variety of group events that help all seniors with their understanding of the "Canadian" experience and life in our country and indeed our city; ranging from Multicultural Events to legal and/or health related workshops. These various activities provide many learning opportunities over and above that of English language enhancement. By learning about one another's culture, customs and traditions we all benefit. Welcome to the "Global Village"!
Another "group" activity revolves round the tutors. By working in conjunction with Bow Valley College, YWCA, and Calgary Public Library we are able to provide excellent training opportunities for all our combined ESL volunteer tutors.
If you would like more information or want to get involved with the Senior Connection Program, please contact the program coordinator at 403.262.2006,