by board member and tutor, Fred Crotchfelt
The best way to connect with our community is to get out into it! I enjoy being a tutor and a board member for the Volunteer English Program, but another rewarding aspect of my involvement is coordinating our Speaker’s Bureau. Taking our message directly to local businesses, clubs, churches, service organizations and professional groups becomes a perfect opportunity to build relationships.
Preferring to “do business” with people we know is part of human nature. Meeting a goodwill ambassador from VEP, especially a student, and hearing him or her “tell their story”, allows people to “put a face” with VEP. For instance, Jessica Ji, Kate Varley’s student from China, spoke to the International Women’s Club. Group members, many of whom could personally identify with her story of why she came to America, were so impressed that they invited her to come to a future meeting and even suggested joining their club! (See the post Jessica wrote on Feb. 6)
As another example, Gustavo Castro, my student from Colombia, has spoken to Lions and Rotary Clubs. In all instances the audience cannot help but admire someone whose dream brought him to America by himself a year before his wife could come and was so lonely at first that he wanted to go back home – but didn’t.
This is VEP!
At each presentation we are represented by a tutor and student . . . and normally a VEP Board member. The total presentation takes 15 – 25 minutes and also includes some time for the audience to ask questions.
When I speak, as a tutor or Board member, our audience is politely attentive. When our students are speaking, everyone’s attention is riveted on them. Their stories are powerful reminders of what our country is made of from the beginning, and people sometimes mention that fact. I feel like a proud father when I hear the students and see how people respond to them.
On a personal level, these opportunities have also opened a whole new “world” of connections to me. I have met business people, members and leaders of other not-for-profit organizations, golfers (with whom I have a special affinity) and leaders in our community. Many of these folks, I continue to see in our community and even to meet or keep in touch with.
There are tangible results that we seek from our presentations:
- PRIMARY – Recruit volunteer tutors
- Obtain volunteers for events and projects
- Inform potential employers about this resource for their employees
- Let potential students know we are here for them
- Appeal to individuals for prospective board membership or committee participation
- Cultivate future sponsorships and other support
YOU CAN HELP VEP! If you know of an organization, or belong to one, which might be interested in learning about VEP, let me or the VEP office know, and we will follow up.
Fred Crotchfelt, firstname.lastname@example.org, 484-354-0283