My extraordinary journey as a volunteer English teacher

Shahin Hussain is a volunteer on our Talking Together project in Birmingham, helping to deliver English language classes in the local community. Here's her powerful blog about the impact the project is having, both on learners and the volunteers who take part:

My journey with TimeBank has been extraordinary as a volunteer teacher trainer.  You may well be thinking, well they all say that, but in fact it’s the truth. From one community centre to the next and having this opportunity to get to teach but also to integrate with different communities who have gone through many difficult stages in life and understanding their needs, respecting and appreciating their culture makes a huge and tremendous difference.

From the start I taught a range of communities - all women from different places such as Somalia, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Pakistan, Arabia, Yemen and Bangladesh - who all committed to learn English. The main purpose of their learning was to be able to communicate within the society where they reside by doing simple things such as making appointments, being able to say what they need in a supermarket and much more.

Although the main focus of the Talking Together programme is Bangladeshi, Somali and Pakistani women, I also taught Romanian women, who in today’s society still feel isolated and are segregated from many parts of the community. There were a lot of challenges that I had to face such as bringing the class together and physically getting them to stay for the two hour sessions and gaining their trust so that they believed that I was really there to help them. My biggest challenge: trust!

These women had a sense of embarrassment and low self-esteem because of their lack of education and felt uncomfortable attending a class which they felt they might not understand.  However, it soon began to turn into a positive and happy learning environment in which the women began to participate much more often and it was clear to me that they became very comfortable and began to enjoy the lessons. From the very first day to the last lesson, the women made a huge improvement and felt that the classes had become a stepping stone to look at life more positively and in an optimistic way.

This whole volunteering experience has given me an insight into what teaching can really accomplish, for example, the simplest things such as what ‘learning the alphabet’ can do, until you take the plunge and find those shining stars smiling at you. From the moment the students enter the classroom, you can see their enthusiasm, commitment and their desperate eagerness to learn and achieve. These women wanted not only to communicate with the outside world but also to work, find employment and most importantly to improve and progress in their lives. This is what I feel teaching can achieve, it can make a change.

As for TimeBank as an organisation, I truly believe it really makes a difference to those in need just like it has mine and those who strongly improved with its help.  TimeBank is driven to deliver and from what I have experienced it certainly has.

If you'd like to know more about Talking Together, take a look here.


Our Journey

Not knowing where to go,

What to do,

TimeBank was like an open ocean,

Showering opportunities and more,

It’s hard to believe what we’ve all achieved,

The obstacles we have overcome,

To reach upmost assertion,

Assertion that education could outreach and bring forth,

Capability and a fresh stance to learn.

We tried and we attained,

We believed and we became,

We can now proclaim the Art of Education!

Thank You TimeBank.

                                                                                                         Shahin Hussain