Above and Beyond is a monthly feature in the Nelson Star. It recognizes 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 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.
For volunteer tutor Sylvia Reimer, seeing her student gain language skills, independence and confidence has been a gift.
“People often think it’s the student who gets the reward but I think I get the better end of the deal,” she said. “I’ve been able to see the change every step of the way. What I have to offer rewards [the student]. It’s a gift to see it happen.”
Reimer has been a volunteer with Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy for four years coming to them with a science background, something that was needed to help a student upgrading in biology.
A graduate of the University of Guelph with education in botany, chemistry and biology, Reimer came to Nelson with her partner in 1995 and started working at the hospital in the finance department. Five years later, the now 54-year-old was struck with a chronic illness that still keeps her from working today despite being much stronger than she once was.
It was difficult for Reimer to be out of the workforce and volunteering allowed her to use her mind as a way of connecting and giving back.
“Even if you aren’t able to work, there is still a desire to be part of the community at large,” she said. “My brain still works… I wanted to impart my knowledge to people. This makes me feel I still have something to offer. And I see it being passed on to her kids, the community and the other people in her life.”
Reimer was matched with a student interested in science but with English being her second language, Latin terms were an extra struggle. Together the duo tackled a nutrition course, English, chemistry and have moved onto physics. In the early days a lot of the tutoring happened with the student’s “little ones on her knee.”
Reimer and her student have become good friends. She sees her children growing up and helps her with life skills not taught in textbooks like map reading and explaining still-puzzling cultural differences.
“Helping her with coping skills for different scenarios in life have improved her ability to be a mom,” said Reimer. “I look forward to it every week. I can see the lights going on. Every step we take, she is seeing bigger results.”
Reimer loves to cook and sing. She’s also involved in the Amy Ferguson Institute and has “always been happy to give my time for things she enjoys,” she said adding she’s pleased to be involved with CBAL, which gives people a safe place to go when they need help learning.
“It’s not about the tutor — it’s all about the student,” Reimer said when asked if she felt she goes above and beyond. “It can be hard to come forward so I am happy to have time for her.”