Volunteer Stories: Heidi


1. Why did you choose to volunteer with NITEO?

I had recently relocated from Ontario to Kelowna and was delighted to learn of NITEO’s Family Reading Program.  With literacy being such an important and valuable tool for me, what could actually be better than becoming a Reading Mentor and assisting newcomer and refugee families in learning about our library and helping them advance their English language and reading skills?  While I’ve had many volunteering experiences over the years, the experience that best prepared me for this position was being a grandma!

2. What was your first day like? Were you nervous/excited/etc? 

My first day volunteering, I was actually quite eager to meet Antonia De Boer, the Executive Director, and the other volunteers. In the first session we learned about NITEO and their marvelous mission as well the Family Reading Program. They made sure to explain our roles and responsibilities in detail and answered all our questions. I was really excited to meet my mentee during the next session! 


3. What have been your favorite parts of volunteering as Reading Mentor?

Being a Reading Mentor is a very rewarding experience. Seeing measurable progress in my mentee’s abilities has been the greatest gift.  Connecting with my mentee, their family and all the participants in NITEO’s Family Reading Program was something I looked forward to every week. One of my favorite parts is the weekly story time where all participants gather in a circle and listen as a story is read to us. It’s remarkable how engaged the children are regardless of any language barriers.  Even the most active among the group settle down and hang onto every word when being read to. Everyone loves story time!!


4. How has the time commitment been?

The time commitment has been easy to manage and is such a bright spot in my week.

5. Are there any memorable moments from the past year?

Hmm, there have been many memorable moments from the past year. The pizza party on the final day of the semester was certainly memorable and a time to reflect on first meeting my mentee and to acknowledge the progress my mentee and all the participants made on this journey.  One little boy in the group who was so shy, hiding behind his parents whenever I said hello to him, approached me to show me what he’d been working on.  Perhaps a small thing but special to me in that he had become comfortable and was communicating with me in English!

6. Have you learned anything about other cultures through this experience? 

I really enjoyed getting to know the families and learning about their home countries, their journey to Canada and their impressions of living here in Kelowna.  One thing that really stood out is how, in the end we ‘re not all that different from one another. Families from different corners of the earth all sharing the same goals.

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