Volunteer Week – former refugee now volunteer English tutor

Jacqueline Aungminn arrived in Australia in 2015 as a refugee. She grew up in Burma and has also lived in Thailand. When she arrived in Australia she learned English through the Adult Migrant English program (AMEP). Now she helps other people learn English and settle in Australia through the same AMEP program – but as a volunteer tutor.

Today I am meeting with Jacqui at the home of her student Hay Biu. Hay has been in Australia for just over a year and she cannot attend AMEP classes because she cares for her mother at home. Hay speaks very little English so sometimes, Jacqui translates for her. It helps that Jacqui and Hay both speak Karen. Hay says that she enjoys her classes with Jacqui.

I start by asking Jacqui why she volunteers as a tutor for AMEP.

I love it. I was a teacher in Burma for 30 years. I wanted to be a doctor but my community needed a teacher, so I did teacher training. I found teaching useful and grew to enjoy it. Education is a beginning but not an end. I can’t be a teacher in Australia without a lot more study, but I love the teacher’s life.

Jacqui’s sharp intelligence and her passion for education shine through our conversation. She is currently tutoring three AMEP students through the AMEP Volunteer Tutor program. She tells me that preparation is very important. She can only teach as many students as she can prepare for. Jacqui finds her own resources and teaches what the students need. She tells me that the Australian accent can be hard for her students, so she works on this. She has also helped students with the vocabulary and language they need to pass their drivers’ licences. Jacqui wants her students to be able to participate in Australian life without a translator.

Finally, I ask Jacqui what she would say to anyone considering being a volunteer tutor.

I would encourage other volunteers. It is very important to volunteer and it has been important for me. Education is precious. You have a precious thing and you need to share it.