Volunteer Spotlight


This month, I’m excited to highlight our wonderful English Conversation Circles Facilitator, Melinda!

“Melinda is such a joy to connect with each week. She brings a calm, warm and welcoming energy to the sessions and is always so prepared. She is a dedicated volunteer, curious and up for learning new things, and she is a supportive presence for English language learners in our community. Plus, her fruit and bird earrings are consistently delightful!”
– Elise, our ever-fabulous and passionate Community Engagement & Learning Coordinator

For those who haven’t had the chance to meet Melinda yet, here are some things to know about her:

How would you describe your volunteer experience?

Since I started volunteering with Kiwassa House in January, it’s been a classic win-win experience.  The staff offer a thorough orientation to Kiwassa House, are supportive of my efforts, and they’re excellent communicators.  I facilitate a 1-hour weekly English conversation circle using Zoom.  I usually prepare 2-3 short activities or topics to discuss but will change plans if we’re having fun and talking a lot and still on the first activity.  Some topics have discussed include: gardens and gardening, well-being, personality descriptions, springtime and picnics.  Most of us use the chat feature to confirm words and I’ve learned how to post photos too.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet people from China, Mexico, Iran, Colombia, and Venezuela and am looking forward to seeing them in person later this year.  I try to create an atmosphere where learners can feel comfortable talking and learning English at their own pace. Laughing is important too!  The regular group members have helped me build this atmosphere by their willingness to try anything.  It’s a very congenial group and we have a good time trying to figure out English idioms, one per week. We “call it a day” and later we “hit the hay.”

What do you enjoy about volunteering?/ What inspires you to volunteer?

English is my mother tongue so when I immigrated to Canada, it wasn’t difficult to become integrated into west coast culture.  Gaining language skills adds to a feeling of belonging which is important for health and well-being.  What I like about volunteering is that I am playing a small part in developing that sense of belonging through sharing what is easy for me: speaking English.  It’s given me a way to connect with new people.

I’m also motivated to volunteer because I have been in foreign language classes where learning was less enjoyable than it should be. It’s best to encourage any participation rather than getting hung up on grammar and pronunciation.  Lastly, it’s satisfying to listen as the English gets better and better!

What is your favourite volunteer experience memory?

I don’t have a specific favourite memory but always have a good feeling after we conclude the group. However what I love about our group is that, when I ask, people quickly translate for each other.  This is helpful as we have a group with mixed language levels and sometimes I have trouble explaining a word or a concept in English. A quick translation allows the person to participate with whatever conversation is ongoing.

What is your favourite thing to do in the neighbourhood?

I enjoy meeting friends at the Laughing Bean Coffee Company on the corner of Hastings and Slocan.  It’s got a good vibe and is close to Kiwassa House, where I hope we can hold our language circle in the near future.