For this week’s Staff Spotlight, I sat down with Anne Mercer, a Volunteer Tutor with East Lothian’s Adult Literacy team, as well as ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). I also met with Liliana, a learner who is working with Anne to improve her English. The Staff Spotlight series aims to promote the hard work that the Adult Services team in East Lothian Works do, and to show the impact they have on the community.
How did you get involved with the Tutoring Programme?
Anne: I followed a recruitment campaign in 2000 for volunteer tutors. At the time I was a full-time Financial Director, but I was drawn to this type of work. Some of the skills I have from my previous job has been useful in helping service users. From my time as a volunteer with Adult Literacy I gained experience with a huge variety of learners, which has been brilliant. So I decided when they were recruiting for ESOL tutors that I would give it a go. Since then, I have been doing a mixture of Literacy and ESOL work with many individuals, including Liliana.
What has been your experience with East Lothian Works?
Liliana: I have enjoyed my classes. I am from Romania, and came to Scotland about 6 years ago in difficult circumstances. I worked in a bakery in Tranent for 5 years, and then 2 years ago I started to go to the ESOL class. There were a lot of people in this class, and I was finding it difficult to learn, so I was able to move to a different class which made me very happy. At this point I unfortunately lost my job, so Anne and Blathnaid helped me make a CV and find a new job. I then started as a Sole Trader; I have my own business where I make and ice celebration cakes, which I really love – find me on Facebook!
What is your favourite part about being involved with the Tutoring Programme?
Anne: My favourite part is getting to know my learner, interacting with them, and a lot of it is about confidence. Someone new comes in to a group and you can tell they don’t want to speak and are very nervous. What they forget is that everyone else in that room went through the same thing; so they understand how they feel. Being able to impact skill or just help and see a learner improve and blossom is brilliant. It’s very rewarding, especially helping people like Liliana who have come from a different country integrate and enjoy living here.
Liliana: I’m so happy every Tuesday when I got to my class. It is very relaxing. For the first 4-5 months I was very panicked and afraid that I wasn’t doing anything right; I wasn’t very confident. Now I’m so happy. I enjoy the class. It’s very hard for me to change a country and a language and find a job, but now I am happy.
What is the most difficult part about being involved with the Tutoring Programme?
Anne: I don’t find it difficult. There are some learners that take longer than others to understand a certain concept, but it’s about finding another way around explaining the same thing. We’ve had some good laughs, but they always get it in the end.
Liliana: I was very nervous. I couldn’t speak two words. Now I have no problems!
Why is the Tutoring Service important?
Anne: Life is tough enough without the worry about your literacy. This impacts getting a job, helping your family, etc. It’s really important that anybody that thinks they can do better does do better and gets help. With ESOL learners, trying to settle into a new country, not only do you have to learn the language but you have to learn how they do things.
Liliana: It is so important as it has helped me. I had to learn how to read, write, and speak English. I enjoy it, and I enjoy living in the UK.
I would like to extend a huge thank you to both Anne and Liliana for agreeing to be interviewed, and taking time out of their day to do so. It is much appreciated. If you would like to find out more about the services on offer, contact East Lothian Works:
Tel: 01620 827 262