The Nelson Star is pleased to introduce this new monthly column which we’ve established to recognize the many volunteers in our community who go above and beyond to help others. The individuals we profile are selected by a committee outside the newspaper based on a set criteria. For example, the person must be volunteering over the long term, and mustn’t be paid for the work. If you’d like to nominate somebody for consideration by the Above and Beyond committee email their name and why they deserve recognition to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joe Woodward has been a volunteer tutor for the Columbia Basin Literacy Alliance adult one-to-one literacy program since he moved to Nelson two years ago.
Woodward, 60, was something of a dream come true when he walked through the door of the literacy program offering to volunteer. He came with considerable experience, having volunteered teaching English literacy to refugees individually and in a classroom setting for several years while living in Denver, Colorado.
He’d also studied to be an ESL teacher in Vancouver. But upon moving to Nelson he decided to use his skills in a volunteer capacity.
Columbia Basin Alliance for Literary adult literacy program co-ordinator Melissa Woodward (no relation) said it’s rare to have somebody with so much experience on her roaster of tutors.
“A couple weeks after Joe signed up, a refugee came to the program who needed a very special tutor and Joe happened to be there,” Melissa recalled. “It was a perfect match and Joe has been instrumental in helping this person find their way in our community.”
Joe meets privately with his learner for a couple hours each week to help them with reading and writing, but also winds up assisting with much more.
“For someone who never lived in Canada, there are basic life skills that they need to develop before they can learn well,” Joe said, speaking broadly of his time working with refugees. Due to confidentiality, he could not speak about the specific individual he’s been working with here.
The goal for many learners in the adult literacy program is to help them get into the free Adult Basic Education classes at Selkirk College, which can lead to them to getting their Dogwood diploma and pre-requisites courses for post-secondary studies. But it can take years of tutoring to get them to that stage.
“I could spend five years or more working with one student,” Joe said. “Whatever it takes, I’m in it for the long term.”
Joe said his interest in working with refugees comes from a lifelong fascination with other cultures and an enjoyment of teaching, as well as his desire to contribute to the well being of his community. Besides the tutoring he does for the literacy alliance Joe also volunteers with adults with special needs or disabilities through the transitional training program at Selkirk College.
Melissa said he can always be counted on to attend special events and help out in any way he can.
“Joe is always somebody who walks around with a smile. When he comes into a room at some kind of event, people are drawn to him,” Melissa adds. “He has a very good heart.”