I’ve been volunteering with Fàilte Isteach, the programme where locals teach English to migrants, for over a year now. If you told me I’d be teaching English in a few years time when I first moved here I wouldn’t have believed itâ€¦ inconceivable.
When I came to Ireland in 2011 my English was still very basic. In Romania I had been working as a teacher, here in Ireland I was a student in all aspects of my daily life. Everything was new for me: the places, people, food and the language of course.
Even though I understood a little bit of English, I was afraid to speak. I felt totally helpless when someone asked me something that wasn’t predictable but I wanted to find a job, have a social life and meet people, so I fought for it. I took different jobs, as a waitress, receptionist and kitchen assistant but the opportunity to improve my English in these jobs wasn’t great. At some point I found out about the Fàilte Isteach classes in the Blanchardstown Area Partnership community centre.
When I came to my first class I felt welcomed very warmly and now it’s like being part of a big family for me. I remember getting very emotional the first time I talked about myself in the class. My teacher Debbie encouraged my skills and I went out of the door of the community centre that day feeling stronger than before.
I also taught myself English outside of the classes, attended another course and later worked in a salon where people spoke more English than in the Thai restaurant where I had worked before. All of that helped me to get better to the point when Debbie said: Your English is so good now; you could just take over your own beginner class. Being a teacher is my way to help people. I was like them and it really makes me happy to help them. I feel like they need me. I have a small group of just four students from Poland, Russia, Afghanistan and Venezuela. We usually speak for one hour and then use the Fàilte Isteach book, read a bit, make exercises. I explain new words for them, I give them useful information and advice for the day-to-day life. We smile all the time.
The classes have been a very important anchor for me, initially as a student and still now as a teacher. I meet new people, I have improved my English and above all I’ve gained so much self-esteem. It gave me support in difficult moments and, very practically: I now have more references when applying for a job. I’ve actually just started a new job in administration and won’t be able anymore to help out as a volunteer because classes here in Blanchardstown run in the afternoon. I know that I will miss it but I’m thankful for this great experience and very proud of myself.
Weather you would like to volunteer with Fàilte Isteach, take part in a class or maybe even start your own branch in your community, you can find all the information you need onchangex.org/failte-isteach