“That could be me.” When Nancy Pompeo, co-director of UlsterCorps, and Susan Barnett, syndicated radio host with NPR, visited an English as a Second Language (ESL) class on Wednesday, February 22, they shared that message as one of the reasons why Americans are volunteering more in these economically unstable days. James Phillips, lecturer in the Haggerty English Language Program, arranged for the women to speak in a new class being offered to the highest level of ESL students, “Community Interactions,” where they have been learning about volunteerism before they head out individually and in small groups to serve and apply their English skills in the town of New Paltz.
“Small organizations are often so overwhelmed by needs, they can’t see how they might work together,” observed Pompeo, who started volunteer work as a child. UlsterCorps, a non-profit organization that seeks to link community needs with people willing to volunteer, was started to begin making those connections.
The students heard about a variety of types and levels of volunteering, from informally caring for an elderly neighbor to the Queen’s Galley in Kingston which serves 10,000 meals a month with food donated from local farms. Students also shared about different attitudes and approaches toward volunteering in their home countries. Haggerty Director Connie Perdreau envisioned this course based on similar ESL programs in American universities, and Professor Sarah Elia is assisting with placements. Perdreau commented, “This is often a new and unique value for foreign students because volunteerism and community involvement either do not exist in their countries or may be present in a different way.”
Next week the students begin helping in the community, spanning in age from the children in a day care to residents in a senior citizens home. “Now I feel ready,” said one student at the close of the class.