“See, Your Guests Approach”

reposted from April 25, 2012, by tutor, Brett Swailes

Recently an interview on NPR featured a “poly-addicted” writer. He was a one-time “dumpster-diver.” He must have recovered, I reasoned. Likely, as not, he will credit some 12-step program, and his higher power to work. As a writer, I like a new wrinkle here and there. Therefore, I was just about to turn the radio off.

Perhaps I should have done so as the unlit road along the river was crowned in the center, and wound its way snugly along one bank. Too many people have gone over the side. So, with its surface strewn with wet leaves, both the road and the radio interview got interesting. I was going too fast. Luckily, I had space ahead to slow down. Sometimes a good story will find me well over the speed limit.

After finally having beaten back the demons, this writer gave the credit to his volunteer efforts. I could scarcely believe it, as he related how first being a soup kitchen helper had started the process of renewing his screwed up life! He whispered that it was the act of giving that had made his life worth living again. How? By taking his mind off his own difficulties.

My student, Shui Zhu, and his family have helped to restore my soul. I had some depression, and had therefore sought out a volunteer effort into which I could pour myself. I had no clue of the effectiveness when I trained to be a VEP tutor, over two years ago, now.

The similarity of expressions in Chinese and English has been so humorous and frequent! For a newcomer to the United States, however, these same points are a blight to those who watch the news in English. However, the growth of the English language gives clear testament to the power of diversity and change.

Each new culture presents their best offerings to their new communities. America truly is the great melting pot—where worldwide cultures meet the resourcefulness, pragmatism, and sometimes the humor of this land of immigrants. First spurred by the American opportunity, let us welcome these newcomers—and from every mountainside, let freedom ring!

Annual Report

reposted from April 17, 2012, from Executive Director Linda Grosse

The Volunteer English Program (VEP) is pleased to present our 2010-2011 Annual Report as we celebrate 26 years of service to the community teaching English to adult immigrants and refugees in Chester County.

During the 2010-2011 program year, 81 new volunteers were recruited and trained to teach English to adult language learners using the one-to-one tutoring model. In total, 174 volunteer tutors served 206 adult learners from 47 different countries. Tutor-student pairs met an average of twice a week for one and one half hour sessions for at least a year. Many pairs remain together much longer than the initial 1 year commitment.

The community supported VEP’s important work by donating space all over the county for tutors to meet with their learners. Space was also donated so that VEP could hold three tutor-training workshops, each consisting of three sessions and a total of 9 hours of training. Staff performed intake interviews, assessments, goal setting assistance and developed individualized learning plans for all students served. Staff matched each learner with a carefully chosen volunteer. They provided each pair with appropriate texts and recommendations for specific activities and strategies based upon the learner’s learning plan. Staff coached and mentored each pair throughout their time together ensuring a satisfying experience for the volunteer and successful learning for the student.

As always with the one-to-one tutoring model, VEP language learners achieved their individual language learning goals. These goals ranged from short term ones such as passing the driver’s license test or riding public transportation to longer term ones such as getting a job, helping their children succeed in school or achieving citizenship. Eleven VEP learners became American citizens this year. One of these brand new citizens opened the 2011 Fundraising Breakfast with a touching recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.

VEP learners are helped by their tutors in many critical ways. One learner struggled with health literacy. Her limited English skills made it difficult to follow her doctor’s orders, read a prescription, or understand directions for giving over-the-counter medications to her children. Thanks to her work with her tutor, she can now safely navigate the healthcare system and make better healthcare decisions for herself and her family.

Another major area where VEP tutors helped their students is the workplace. With the help of his tutor, a VEP student learned the language needed for job search. He learned how to develop a resume, how to fill out a job application, and how to harness the power of the Internet to find a job. Together, he and his tutor role-played practice interviews and studied commonly asked interview questions. Once he found a job, his tutor continued to work with him on job related skills such as following directions, locating information, and asking questions for clarification. Our student found a job that sustains his family, has benefits and a future.

On July 1, 2012, staff hours were reduced by 22% due to budget constraints so the waiting list frequently climbed to above 60 individuals. The wait time for those people on the waiting list also increased. Many people had to wait weeks and even months for help. Many others had to be referred to other programs or became discouraged by the long waiting period. With the retirement of a part time employee, VEP welcomed Patty Morgioni as its new Program Coordinator. The board of directors continued to provide governance for the organization with dedication and ability.

As always, VEP goes forward with much appreciation for the generous support received, a careful eye on spending, and renewed dedication to provide free, high quality English tutoring to limited English proficient adults working and living in Chester County.


Linda Grosse, Executive Director