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Volunteering rooted in empathy leaves newcomers empowered

Volunteering rooted in empathy leaves newcomers empowered

Although English is her first language, Jenna shares a “unique understanding” with the newcomers she supports at her weekly Conversation Circles. Jenna has communication and mobility disabilities that require her to use an Augmented Communication Device and mobility aids, and while the nature of her challenges differ from newcomers, she feels her experiences have enabled her to approach facilitation through a lens of empathy.

Each week, volunteers from Catholic Social Services LACE (Learning and Community Enrichment) program help newcomers practice English at 22 Conversation Circles locations throughout the Edmonton area. Jenna’s philosophy is that people learn best when they’re having fun, and so she uses activities ranging from conversation bingo to modified Jenga to keep her participants laughing while developing their English skills.

“I think the most rewarding part by far is getting to know the participants. Each one is incredible and is so courageous, coming across the world to start a new life here in Canada,” said Jenna. “Because I’ve also had to learn to do things differently, I think I have a unique empathy for the participants in my group who have also faced huge changes and are now learning to communicate in a new language… I feel privileged and honoured to be a part of this.”

Catholic Social Services is blessed to have incredible volunteers like Jenna.  We applaud her empathetic approach to supporting our newest Canadians as they begin building connections with one another, and celebrate her commitment to helping newcomers feel empowered as they settle into their new homes.

Thank you, Jenna!

 

April 19 – 25 marks National Volunteer Week 2020.  Stay tuned to our website and social media channels (@cssalberta) for more celebrations throughout the week!

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