Marsha Ohayon ... absolutely loves being a volunteer

A Message from an ESRA ETP Volunteer

I am a 61 year old woman who spent 36 years in the Import & Export Management profession. I worked for shipping companies, custom forwarders, import and export companies. I did it all. I loved this field of work and I expected I would be doing it until I went on pension. I woke up each and every morning looking forward to going to my office and doing my job. I loved working with and meeting a lot of new people, both coworkers and customers. This was my world and my life. At least that was what I believed for so many years.

When my mother passed away, I took a few months break from my job. When I felt it was time to start looking for a job again, suddenly I was too old. So after trying for a few months to find a new job and always being disappointed, I finally decided to give up on going back to work.

Then one day Stanley Canning told me about the ESRA ETP [English Tutoring Program] and it sounded interesting. Stanley was [and still is] the person in charge of the volunteers of the ETP in Haifa. Three years ago I attended an ETP seminar in Haifa where I learned so many new ideas which gave me food for thought. Stanley kept pushing me to be a volunteer at a school in Kiryat Yam. So with no job and nothing to keep me busy, I eventually decided to try.

I was accepted as a volunteer in the Korchak school in Kiryat Motzkin, twice a week for five hours each time, working with 4th, 5th and 6th graders. I was also a volunteer in the Almogim school once a week and in the Amirim school once a week, each for 5 hours a day. both in Kiryat Yam, also working with 4th, 5th and 6th graders. At all three schools I had an excellent relationship with both the children and the English teachers, as well as with the school principals. In all three schools I felt that I was in the right place at the right time. I enjoyed each day and every moment that I was helping the children. But most of all, the love and appreciation that I received from the children and the teachers was heartwarming.

This year, I am no longer at the Korchak school. Instead, I am at the Amirim school twice a week, at the Almogim school once a week, and at the Or Avner religious school once a week. All three schools are in Kiryat Yam. I wake up each morning with such anticipation, looking forward to what awaits me at each school. I really love helping all those children and I know they feel the same way about me.

Last Thursday and Friday I was asked to be a substitute teacher at Almogim school for one of the English teachers who was off sick. I gladly accepted. As I did not know what to expect, the teacher supplied me with exact instructions on what work to do with each class. I have to admit that I didn’t know how I would deal with working with full classes consisting of so many children. On Thursday I had two hours with one 6th grade class, and then one hour with another 6th grade class and one hour with a 4th grade class. On Friday I had one hour with a 3rd grade class and then two hours with a 6th grade class. The 3rd graders were a bit rambunctious but the 6th and 5th graders were a lot easier. I enjoyed the experience of those two days very much and the principal asked me if I would be willing to do it again if and when necessary. I agreed with pleasure. Of course I get paid for being a substitute teacher.

My message to each and every one of you reading this article is that there is such a desperate need for more volunteers in the ETP. So many schools throughout the country need our help in tutoring the children with English. As you all know, without a good knowledge of the English language children cannot succeed in this world. No matter where they may go or live, and no matter what profession they decide to go for, they must know English. With so many children in each class, and in some classes there are as many as 40 children, there is no possible way for one teacher to give any one child the individual help that they so desperately need.

No experience is necessary. For the high schools and junior high schools, no Hebrew is necessary. For the elementary schools a basic level of Hebrew is necessary. The only requirement is that you have English as a mother tongue. As a volunteer, you decide how many times a week and how many hours a day you are able to give. For those of you who want it, you can be in the school closest to your home in order not to have to travel. You also decide which level of school you prefer to volunteer in.

Also, if you have a friend or know of anyone who would be interested in being a volunteer, please help spread the word.

I can’t stress enough how self-rewarding it is to help these children. It is also a huge mitzvah to help them. As for me personally - I absolutely love being a volunteer. Each morning I wake up looking forward so much to seeing and helping the children. I get more pleasure from doing what I’m doing now than I ever felt in the 36 years that I worked in Import and Export.

For anyone interested in becoming an ETP volunteer, just contact your nearest ESRA office, or if you know who is in charge of the ETP in your area you can contact him or her directly. I sincerely hope that some of you will decide to at least give it a try. See the list of local coordinators of the ETP programs in this magazine.

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