Monday, December 3, 2012

Guest Post by Mark Victor Hansen

Why everyone needs to volunteer

Coming from a family of immigrants, I've battled many problems – personal and social. My parents spoke Danish exclusively. English was almost nonexistent in our home. My parents didn't know the language that America speaks and this stopped them from being a part of many events that would be considered important in a child’s life. They were too conscious to attend my PTA meets. They believed that they would be ridiculed or insulted. I've never really heard of or seen any educated person make fun of uneducated people for being uneducated, but the fear is one that is common to many immigrants. It probably stems from a lack of self confidence.
My kindergarten teacher was the one who noticed that I had a reading disability. Once she knew that I was going to find reading difficult, she got me to take up remedial reading. My remedial reading teacher was one of the most patient people I've ever met. She would sit with me every single day and simply help me where I stumbled. She was caring and considerate and had great influence in my life. This is actually the case with many people who learn a language like English. When someone teaches you English, you are actually given a great gift, regardless of who your teacher was.
This may seem like an odd point of view, but coming from a home that didn't speak English shows you the importance of knowing the language that has become the universally accepted language. Today, the knowledge of English is a necessity, not an optional luxury. Maybe that’s the reason so many schools of English as a Second Language are attracting more and more students. My first Alma Mater, the Southern Illinois University, boasts of one of the world’s best ESL schools. They teach English to kids in China and Vietnam which shows that such knowledge is not limited to international boundaries.
People who speak English actually have the ability to pass this knowledge on to others. In fact, I strongly believe that anyone who has knowledge of some kind should volunteer to pass it on to others who can benefit from it. When you teach someone to read, you are giving them a way to access the world. By learning how to read English, people can learn more and more things on their own. Teaching someone to love reading is equivalent to handing them the means of expanding their knowledge, thoughts, ideologies and thinking. Volunteering is also helpful to the volunteer and in some cases has been known to help the volunteer more that the student. When you volunteer, you are taking part in unconditional giving. This act fills every individual who partakes in it with a sense of acute happiness and fulfilling. Maybe that’s why volunteering is considered therapeutic by some. The point is, volunteering to teach someone something is an act that can make the entire world a better place.

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