Volunteer of the Month

Grace Pelech

The Immigrant Centre is fortunate to have an incredible team of volunteers, who generously share their time and skills to help newcomers settle into their new life, and feel welcomed and supported.  One of these volunteers is Grace Pelech. 

Grace joined the Immigrant Centre in 2021 as a One-on-One English Tutor, now called English Language Partner. Language Partners help newcomers practice and improve their English skills, so that they can communicate with confidence, make new friends, and feel at home in Canada and their community. Since joining the Centre, Grace has volunteered for over 100 hours and helped three clients, often extending her three-month commitment to a full year. 

How did you first hear about the Immigrant Centre (IC)? 

My husband and I had just returned to Canada in 2020 after working as aide workers in West Africa for nine years. I needed something to occupy myself during the shut down, so I did an internet search to volunteer with new immigrants. I had access to Zoom and wanted to engage with new immigrants in Winnipeg.

What attracted you to this organization in particular?

The Immigrant Centre was a well-established organization with a platform to respond to my desire to volunteer in a safe way during the health restrictions. I have continued to enjoy working via Zoom. It allows me to work from home around my other existing commitments. Immigrant Centre gave me the opportunity to continue working with my TESOL training.

Why did you decide to volunteer?

I have lived and worked overseas with vulnerable people in a different language and culture for nine years. I can empathize with new immigrants having to adjust to a new language and culture. I appreciated the people who helped me navigate the new culture overseas and I wished to pay it forward. I was 50 when I began learning a second language and followed with a third language. This experience helps me understand the unique challenges facing an adult/mature language learner.

Both my grandparents immigrated to Canada. My two grandmothers choose very different paths to language learning. One grandmother read all her children’s school books as her source of language learning and eagerly practiced with her children. My other grandmother refused to learn the language and only engaged with people who shared her birth language. As a result, she never answered the phone and always relied on her husband and children to translate on her behalf. I had a warm, loving relationship with one, and a more distant relationship with the other because we did not share a language. One thrived, one survived. I would like to be part of helping people to thrive.

As a returning volunteer, why do you continue to volunteer?

When seeing the progress and confidence in new language learning it is encouraging. Helping others meet their goals and thrive is rewarding and meaningful to me as well as for the learner. I am honored to learn from each person I encounter, something new from their point of view and culture which in turn enriches my life.

What has your volunteer experience been like at IC?

Immigrant Centre provides support, resources, and workshops that I have appreciated. I also appreciate their flexibility and willingness to work within my schedule. I never feel pressured. I also feel appreciated not just by the learner, but also the organization.