Friday, November 22, 2013

Talk Time: Volunteer Drivers Play Multiple Roles, Including English Instructors

Raisa, who will turn 80 in December, 
 is very studious with her English textbooks.
When Raisa Nikitina’s two adult sons first brought her to visit the USA in the 1990’s, she marveled at everything.  She found the scenery to be incredibly beautiful; she was amazed by all of the choices; and everything was new to her.   She made several subsequent visits and soon filled multiple photo albums chronicling her experiences-- shots of her at the Pike Place Market, on a ferry ride in the Puget Sound, taking a tour at the Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia, and (her favorite memory) expressing complete shock as a restaurant staff unexpectedly serenaded her son on his birthday.  It all was so novel and different from her life in Russia.

Fast forward to the present day, and Raisa is an American citizen.  Her sons ultimately persuaded her to make the big move to be closer to them and her grandchildren, and Raisa passed the citizenship exam in January of this year.  She still has the study guides that she used to learn about all of our country’s wars, which states have borders with Mexico and Canada, which oceans are on the East of the country, and all sorts of information she had not previously known.  She studied hard to achieve this goal; she was the best student in her preparation class.

Raisa is now working on another challenge: mastering the English language.  She has many English textbooks that she brought with her from Russia, but she acknowledges that the best way to learn a language is to practice.  And practice. And practice.  To her amazement, this additional practice was made possible thanks to trips to the dentist.

When Raisa was granted a “Women in Need” grant for extensive dental work, she discovered that the best dentist to meet her needs was in Bothell—a far distance from her residence in Renton.  She was soon connected with the Volunteer Transportation program to make these trips possible, and the long, regular rides allow for hands-on English lessons.

Raisa lists many of her volunteer drivers by name—Tom, Chelley, Steph—as well as the VT South King County Coordinator, Jacob.  “I love them!” she exclaims.  They help her with her pronunciation; they provide her with feedback about her grammar and word choice; they explain why things are the way they are; they work very hard to assist her; and they notice her progress.

Raisa has lots to say about her volunteer drivers/English tutors: “They are wonderful.   I am touched by their generosity and patience.  They are never late.  They have very clean cars.  They are always smiling and always wanting to help.”

Raisa reports that her sons are surprised at how well she has adapted to her new life in America.  She says that this is due, in part, to the many resources that have helped her with the transition-- including the Volunteer Transportation program.  Raisa has grown accustomed to her many new realities, but she is still in awe of the kindness and friendliness of the many Americans she has met since first moving to Renton in 2006. She is happy with her life as a proud American citizen.


Remy German said...

Beautifully written blog.Nice reading experience..drivers ed online

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“Behind the Wheel” offers stories, reflections, news and updates about Sound Generations’ (formerly Senior Services') Transportation Program. Throughout King County, our inspiring volunteers provide needed mobility to local seniors, supporting them in their efforts to remain independent, healthy, and happy. Please drop by to read more about the unique experiences of our volunteers, clients and staff!
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