Meet Winnie. She is a volunteer in the Pebbles in the Sand program and May’s Volunteer of the Month.

Tsigeweini ‘Winnie’ Zeru is originally from Eritrea where she taught pre-school aged children. She came to Canada as a refugee in 2013 and is aspiring to be a tutor and/or classroom assistant in the future. As a child, Winnie lost an arm. She refuses to let that get in the way of living a full life, however, and continues to persevere in her ambitions.

Winnie successfully completed English classes elsewhere in Calgary and came to CIWA for employment support. She received employment counselling and successfully completed multiple workshops and classes at CIWA. Afterwards, Winnie sought to be a volunteer because she wanted to give back to the community and to make a difference in the lives of immigrant women.

Since 2018, Winnie has faithfully volunteered with the Pebbles in the Sand program. CIWA staff count themselves lucky to have her as she supports students’ learning goals while maintaining a positive and structured classroom environment. She speaks Tigrinya, which is the majority first language spoken in the class, but she uses it sparingly and wisely, in order to give the students the best in-class learning experience. She also provides valuable cultural insights to best support CIWA staff and students alike.

Winnie has found that volunteering gives her a sense of fulfillment; it lowers her anxiety and gives her a sense of purpose. Through volunteering, Winnie’s English and communication skills have improved and her confidence has significantly grown. Winnie feels less stress and is invigorated through the work she does.

“I am constantly learning and appreciate that I can learn new things while helping other people, all at the same time.”

Winnie was chosen as Volunteer of the Month because she plays a very important and integral part in the Pebbles in the Sand classroom. Those who have the privilege of working with her say she has a classroom ‘sixth sense’; she knows when a student needs help and supports them accordingly. She has a vested interest in the students’ success and understands that in order for students to succeed, it is her responsibility to teach them that relying on their first language or someone who speaks their first language is not the best way to improve. She teaches by example and her contributions to the success of the classroom are immeasurable.

Winnie shows students the power that language and independence has given her. This inspires students to follow in her footsteps as they hope to become volunteer interpreters in the future. She is a gift to CIWA because she always embodies CIWA’s values and vision, while empowering the women she works with.

Winnie’s hobbies include listening to music, enjoying nature, jogging, and reading.

Congratulations Winnie on being Volunteer of the Month for May 2020!

To learn more about volunteer opportunities click here.

To learn more about the Pebbles in the Sand program click here.