Paula Cowling’s story as a Volunteer Coach

I’ve had the opportunity to work with 6 children in Strong Start’s Letters, Sounds and WordsTM program at Jean Vanier Catholic School, and I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s just so much fun getting to know each child and figuring out their learning style. Each and every one is different and the games in the program reflect these differences.

As their Volunteer Coach, I can pick games from the manual that are fun for them. They can do the games sitting, they can do the games standing, and they are learning all the same. The program has so much repetition built into it that the children really fly through the lessons. They work so hard, and I can see a change in them from the beginning to the end of the 10-weeks. We just laugh and laugh the whole time too.

I worked with one little girl and she asked me “why do you always come and get me when I’m having fun?” Our time together was often during her time in the computer lab, so I apologized, but she didn’t care. She said, “That’s okay, you’re “funner,” which made me feel really great about my volunteering.

I also worked with one boy, who had such an imagination. He wouldn’t stop talking…he kept showing me all the karate moves he was learning. He was such a character, which was wonderful, and he progressed so well through the program.

The children I volunteer with are always sad when it’s their last session. They wish the program was 50 sessions long instead of 10, which is amazing feedback. They love going and they crack me up. Even when I come back to these children’s classrooms to pick up other children to work with, they run and give me a hug. I think it’s the one-on-one attention that makes such a difference for children, while having fun with learning.

The program also helps the children gain confidence. I remember one boy I worked with…he was so shy at the beginning of the program, he wouldn’t look up, talked with his hands over his mouth, and by the end he was all smiles, talking with a loud voice. I may have chosen to become a teacher if I volunteered years ago, that’s how much I’ve enjoyed my experiences.

I have a child with special needs, and volunteering in this program has given me a chance to be around other children his age as well. He’s in Grade 1, and top of his class in reading and math. I’ve learned activities and strategies I could use to work with him, and I get to talk to him about words, which is one of his favourite things to talk about. It’s been a wonderful experience for me volunteering, and I share my experiences with others often. I just feel so fulfilled, and tell the school to keep contacting me to volunteer.

We laugh, we play, and we laugh some more. I just can’t say enough good things about this program.