Volunteers help immigrants learn to read

By Joe Genco for the niagara-gazette.com

It started with a Google search for a Lockport woman.

“How do immigrants learn English?”

It ended with www.literacybuffalo.org and a visit from Karen Welch, a Niagara Falls woman who went to complete intake paperwork with two refugees who arrived from Ukraine to live with a niece and need help finding their way. The new arrivals even have a couple children with them who are still attending school via Zoom in their home country.

“We work with people like that from all sorts of different countries,” Welch, who is the organization’s Niagara County literacy coordinator said. “They want to stay low key for now.”

Welch’s efforts have begun to swell the ranks of students and teachers in Niagara County, according to Executive Director Tara Schafer.

“Niagara County has always been a growth place for us,” she said. “Not as many individuals have taken advantage of our services as in Erie County.”

The drive for new volunteers starts with training. There will be two sessions in person, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays, May 11 and June 1 at Pinnacle Community Services, 1522 Main St. in Niagara Falls and 6 hours online. More information is available by emailing info@literacybuffalo.org or calling (716) 433-7014

After training, volunteers are then paired with clients. Typically, they meet two hours a week for a year or so depending on the student and what they are trying to attain. It’s not just people learning English for the first time, either.

Read more here.

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