Volunteers – You Are Appreciated!

It’s National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and we would like to thank all of the volunteers in Literacy Connects’ programs for your many dedicated hours of service. You are truly the heart and soul of our programs.  You are making a difference!

Last year, volunteers with our programs served the community in a variety of dynamic ways including:

  • Over 120 medical providers volunteered their time and expertise to offer and support early literacy coaching to over 34,000 families with children from birth through age five
  • 1,000 volunteer coaches provided one-on-one literacy coaching to 2,500 children in nine school districts and 100 elementary schools; more than 29,000 volunteer hours were donated
  • Over 300 tutors assisted nearly 2,000 adults to learn to read, write and speak English
  • Over 200 volunteers supported the programs through administrative support and assistance in public outreach efforts.
  • 35 organizations and businesses volunteered their time through coalition work to leverage resources for, strengthen advocacy and raise awareness of the importance for 100% literacy throughout Southern Arizona.

After 13 years of dedicated service as a volunteer in our ELAA program, Judy Ray (above), has retired. Thank you, Judy, for your hard work, sense of humor and humility. Apart from being a fabulous teacher, Judy is also a poet. To the right is one of her beautiful poems about her experience volunteering as an English Language Teacher.

The Gifts

In my kitchen sits a wooden Buddha

with polished round belly for prosperous

fortune.  Buddha beams, but the smile I see

is of the Chinese woman who wrote our

alphabet with fine calligraphic care

and went from echoing only Me, too

to taking pride in her new vocabulary.

A thickly-woven rust-colored gabbeh

covers a chest and glows with tradition

from the Iranian repairer of rugs

who had the good memory and accent

of an aural learner.  In class he would

declare with triumph, That’s my final answer!

No, no, we always said, we don’t need gifts.

But here is a small glinting glass dolphin

from someone who used to live beside the sea

and it brings to these transplanted people

the topic of homesickness.

A necklace in bronzed metal was fashioned

by a refugee who has fled war,

known deprivation, feared for the children,

and resented there being no schools.

I wear it with vicarious thankfulness.

When a family from Somalia

had a weekend wedding, henna was brought

with excited, staccato directions

for how I could decorate my hands too.

Pinned in my study is a white cotton

cloth with lacy trim, a presentation

holder for baptismal gifts.  I remember
the dark, tearful eyes of the quiet young

woman when she trusted enough to whisper

of former physical abuse.

No, no, there is no need, we always said.

But now among heirlooms or odd tokens

of travel, these gifts find lodging, offer

a remembered voice, a pattern of speech,

and the blessing of hearing confident

embrace of an adopted language.

                                                                        —Judy Ray

For volunteer opportunities with Literacy Connects and throughout the community with literacy organizations, click here.

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