Volunteer Stories: A Most Rewarding Experience

As a single mother from Somalia with two children, Teamir Melaku needed help developing her English language skills. She had a goal to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). To do so, she needed to pass the CNA test, which she had already attempted two times.

Marianne Heyden, a volunteer tutor at People’s Resource Center (PRC), in DuPage County, Illinois, was just as committed as Teamir was to help her fulfill her dreams and provide a quality life for her children. The two would meet for as many as six hours a week at their local library. 

While tutoring Teamir, Marianne also had the opportunity to learn new things. “I learned about nursing assistant skills right along with her,” she said. “We learned the physiology of the human body. We learned all about working in someone’s home. We practiced social skills, helping her get past the language barrier. The CNA test gives no concessions for English as a second language.”

As a tutor, Heyden worked to create a fun and educational learning environment for Teamir. In doing so, she applied a helpful, hands-on learning approach that ultimately led Teamir to passing her CNA exam. “She passed with flying colors—she got almost 100 percent,” said Marianne. “It really was a wonderful experience. A unique, special outcome.”

Heyden continued to work in the open classroom at PRC, and ultimately developed an ESL chat group where people from several different countries could practice conversational English. “I’m very physical in my explanations about things,” said Marianne. “I talk with my hands and act things out. One day, I acted out how scared I am of spiders. Another time I pantomimed how much I like kittens. Sometimes we laugh so hard, we cry. That’s the best!” Just like with Teamir, Marianne is devoted to providing a simplified, hands-on learning experience for all of her students.

“Watching another person grow is incredibly rewarding. I really enjoy working with people who want to change their life. Volunteering has taught me the immense satisfaction of giving your time and seeing a result.”

Read the full story, Laugh A Lot, at You can also view other inspirational stories on the PRC blog. 



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