When Johura Jaigirdar moved to Canada in 1992, her days were packed full taking care of three young children at home. She just didn’t have time to take ESL classes.
When she heard about the Youth Empowering Parents (YEP) program, she thought it might provide a way for her to integrate more fully into the community. YEP works like this: parents sign up to get free English and computer lessons from local youth, who themselves earn volunteer hours towards obtaining their high school diplomas. It’s an opportunity not only for the parents to learn valuable skills, but also for the youth to gain leadership experience and improve their own ability to communicate.
That’s where she met her teacher, Hoore Jannat, 13, an enthusiastic girl who also speaks Bengali. And the match has worked out great. Johura says working with Jannat is more like learning from a friend than a teacher. “If I don’t understand something, she can explain it to me in my own language,” she says.
As a student at Lord Dufferin Junior and Senior Public School and resident of Regent Park, Hoore began volunteering when she started Grade 8. “I came because I like helping people,” says Hoore, who was born in Bangladesh but came to Canada at age 3. “It’s the same as helping my own parents.”
“This semester, I taught Johura how to use the internet to chat for free with her family back home instead of buying calling cards,” she says, “and I told my friends about it so they can join in the next semester too.”