Our next story comes from Avria Shier, a volunteer at Kitsilano Neighbourhood House. Originally from Montreal, Avria came to Vancouver in 1993, and has been here ever since. In 2019, a friend referred her to Kits House when Avria mentioned she was interested in volunteering. Avria went on to participate in several programs and events, including the English Conversation Circle, which she continued even through the pandemic on zoom when the neighbourhood houses were closed. In her own words, Avria shares how volunteering at Kitsilano Neighbourhood House English Conversation Circle allowed her to meet new people and discover new cultures, traditions and more. We hope you enjoy her story!

I was at a junction in my life. Retired. Looking forward. Seeking people to meet, new influences and points of view. Since the fall of 2019, I meet with the Kits Neighbourhood House beginners English Conversation Circle once a week, inviting participants to explore and grow as new speakers of English; coaxing them out of a cocoon of self consciousness. With time and listening, and the camaraderie that develops within the group, they become more comfortable with their newly adopted language, city, and culture. 

Our conversations are about things they are relaxed talking about: family and friends, likes and dislikes, life lessons and events, home countries, cultures, and always food! Together, with words and gestures, they weave stories about where they come from, and how they want to make Vancouver their new home; discovering that Vancouver and English are becoming more familiar, more attainable, more fun! 

I’m moved by the impact this one hour a week has on their lives. Friendships form. Anxieties and a sense of being alone find a voice. Opportunities are created. Worried expressions blossom into smiles. I rejoice at the impact this one hour a week has on my life. I learn about exotic foods; share in stories of elation and despair, courage and humour; experience new cultures, traditions, and customs. I was able to meet people I care about, and want to spend time with. Connection. A word to sum up the mutual impact between myself as a Kits House volunteer, and the community of beginners English conversationalists.

To learn more about volunteering with one of our Neighbourhood Houses, visit anhbc.org. To learn more about Kits Neighbourhood House, visit kitshouse.org