By Nikki Jamieson
Glenna Coldwell may have only just begun working at Taber’s ESL Drop-in Center recently, but she has been there for most of the year.
Originally a volunteer, she is now the new ESL Drop-in Coordinator for the Taber & District Community Adult Learning Association.
Coldwell started volunteering at the centre in February when she was having a career change, although she was initially interested in teaching computer skills. She had asked the TDCALA director, Jane Brenner about volunteer opportunities, and Brenner told her to drop by the center and give it a shot. Soon after, Coldwell became hooked.
“You feel great, and you realize what a great need there is, and how really, you can be of help. Yeah, it’s addictive… No, it’s compelling.”
She credits more the people she helps out for the enjoyment of her work, admiring their commitment to learning.
“When I saw the commitment of women, who could get up in the morning, kids off to school, husbands fed, come drive to the ESL centre to learn English three days a week, I was really touched by that. Because they still got to go home, get the kids back from school, make supper and get ready for the next day.”
She was impressed by their dedication to learn English, especially since she herself does not speak another language, and thought the challenge to learn one in a new place would be overwhelming.
“To go to a new country with a new culture, and try to do the really necessary things, like go to a doctor, or go to a grocery store… I think it’s a very daunting task. But here they are, and lots of them.”
Coldwell went on to begin tutoring the centre’s students. So, when the position opened up, she jumped at the chance and applied, gaining the position in early September.
As the drop-in coordinator, she is in charge of all tutoring, classes, and drop-in services at the centre.
“I coordinate, making sure that if we can help them, we help them.”
Services offered by the drop-in centre include helping newcomers get their driver’s license by studying for the written exam, teaching English in the evenings for families, going through reading, writing, listening and some life skills to improve English, studying for the language proficiency test – Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program – necessary before taking the citizenship test.
“Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But really, it’s a lot of coordination.”
Now, having been in the position for over a month, Coldwell wants to be able to foster a “centre of trust”, for those who need help.
“I would love to develop an ESL centre with a reputation for honest, trustworthy service for all members of the community… I would like to create a welcoming atmosphere here, where they would feel safe and comfortable to come and get any help that they need.”
She also wants to launch a monthly event, where people could come and practice their English conversational skills with other members of the community.
But not everything has been rosy and rewarding work, since the center is in need of volunteers.
“I would like to have enough volunteers, and enough people that as they came, we could meet their needs, sufficiently… This center will never survive without volunteers. Sometimes volunteers, I know when I began, thought ‘Oh, what could I do? Because I’m not a genius, I’m not an English major’, but what I guess I discovered is that if you could speak English, and get by, then you can be of help.”
Coldwell lives in Barnwell with her husband Rod.
In addition to her work at the drop-in centrr, she also enjoys doing computer graphics and doing yard work in her rather impressive, 80-by-100 foot vegetable garden.
Although her new position keeps her busy, Coldwell always makes sure she has time to volunteer at the center.