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National Volunteer Week: Barbara Campbell

After moving around the world for four decades as an ESL teacher and wife of a Canadian diplomat, Barbara Campbell knows how difficult it can be for women to in a foreign country to find time for themselves.

“I know for myself, moving every three or four years, you think of your children first, then your husband, and you think of yourself last – maybe after a year or so,” she says.

That’s why she knew a volunteer opportunity as a leader of an English Conversation Circle for Women was the right place for her.

Barbara is one of the 453 library volunteers who donated 10,585 hours of their time in 2016.

“You see a lot of happiness, you see budding friendships.”

The English Conversation Circle for Women at Central Library was originally created to help Syrian women who came to Waterloo Region in 2016, and includes child-minding services so that mothers can bring their children.

It’s now quite a large group that meets every week, and includes women from lots of different backgrounds, including some who have moved here while their spouses attend school. Some of the women have been here for 14 years, some arrived just a few months ago.

“It’s a large group, with language levels all over,” Barbara says. “You see a lot of happiness, you see budding friendships. People are free to voice their frustrations. They have time to think of themselves and they realize how lonely they are.”

Barbara, who is one of two group leaders who works with three volunteer assistants, says she likes to present a newsworthy or culturally relevant topic, then give the women vocabulary words and common idioms. Recently, they’ve discussed the arrival of spring, maple syrup, Easter, bullying, and the pros and cons of backyard chickens.

Barbara also likes to help the women practise pronunciation, because the English language is driven by emphasis on certain syllables, unlike Japanese or French, for instance. Frustrated by being misunderstood, the women have steadily improved with two or three sessions of learning how to stress syllables.

“I saw a lot of eyes brightening,” she says.

But perhaps more importantly, this is a place where women can connect with others in the community in a friendly, social environment.

“Many of the women have children in school and this is their first opportunity to get out. They call it ‘my time,’ and it’s fun to see,” Barbara says.

We’d like to thank Barbara and the other 452 library volunteers who use their experiences and skills to make our community a stronger place!

Learn more about ESL resources at Kitchener Public Library

Find out about volunteer opportunities

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National Volunteer Week: Alison Bullock

We’re celebrating National Volunteer Week, April 10 – 16!

Meet Alison Bullock, an integral part of the team that runs French Immersion Tutors at Forest Heights Community Library.

Bilingual volunteers help French immersion students with their homework every Thursday afternoon from 4 – 5:30 pm.

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National Volunteer Week: Sara Falhaufer

We’re celebrating National Volunteer Week, April 10 – 16!

Meet Sara Falhaufer, who volunteers as a shelf reader at Central Library. She just completed the library technician program at Mohawk College yesterday (congratulations, Sara!) and her education, coupled with her volunteer work here, have helped her to get a job at Waterloo Public Library.

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Volunteer profile: Maddie Fielding, Jill of all trades

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We’re celebrating National Volunteer Week with profiles of some our amazing volunteers!

Maddie Fielding is one amazing teen. She’s been volunteering with us here at the library for more than three years, and cheerfully tackles any task we give her.

If you’ve been to any of our major public events, you’ve probably seen her smiling face: she’s helped out at Kidspark, Family Literacy Day, and the Word on the Street Festival, and our community Kids’ Clubs.

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Volunteer profile: Carlos Benevides, Reading Buddy

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We’re celebrating National Volunteer Week with profiles of our amazing volunteers! 

When he’s not behind the microphone at 91.5 The Beat, Carlos Benevides can often be found at Kitchener Public Library.

The charismatic, energetic radio host has been a Reading Buddy volunteer for about two years. Reading Buddies work one-on-one with children who can read, but need a little more practise.

Carlos found his way to our doors through a zany radio experiment a few years ago: 30 Deeds in 30 Days. He volunteered at a different local organization every day for 30 days in a row, sharing his experiences with radio listeners and writing about it too.

His goal was to highlight how easy it is to make a difference, once you’ve found the right volunteer position among the many opportunities available. It was fellow radio colleague and library board member Mike Farwell who suggested he give Reading Buddies a try.

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Volunteer profile: Maca Suazo, shelf reader

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We’re celebrating National Volunteer week with profiles of just a few of our amazing volunteers!

Maca Suazo has a long and deep connection to libraries and literature. In her native country of Chile, patrons were not allowed to browse, but had to request books that were kept in locked glass cases. Her mother travelled by train to access books to read aloud to Maca.

When she came to Canada in 1998, she was amazed first by the five-storey library at York University, where her husband was a student, and then by the Toronto Public Library, with its thousands of picture books and books in Spanish for her daughters.

She moved to Kitchener seven years ago and now volunteers as a shelf reader at Central Library.

Shelf readers make sure our collection is tidy and that every item is filed in its proper place, so customers can always find what they’re looking for.

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