Amanda Addeo, Unum disability benefits specialist in Worcester’s Benefits Center, says volunteering with Literacy Volunteers of Greater Worcester is good for the soul.
Inside: When did you start volunteering?
Amanda: In high school, I was a member of several student organizations where we volunteered around Worcester.
Inside: Why do you volunteer?
Amanda: My motto is “my day-job pays the bills but volunteering feeds my soul.” It’s important for me to be an active member of my community and give back whenever possible, but it’s also
rewarding to see the ripple effect that comes with volunteering. Through my volunteer work, I’ve developed new skills, networked and made great friends, all while helping others. Volunteering can also be a meditative practice that helps you gain a deeper perspective of how communities connect with people.
Inside: What organizations do you volunteer for?
Amanda: I’m volunteering with Literacy Volunteers of Greater Worcester (LVGW) as a literacy tutor and member of the board of directors right now. In the past, I volunteered with Worcester State University and South High School for Massachusetts Education & Career Opportunities, Inc.’s College Success Institute. I would work with high school juniors and seniors to prepare them for college and beyond.
Inside: What does your volunteer work at LVGW look like?
Amanda: We help adults refine their literacy skills. We teach immigrants, refugees and adult basic-literacy students to read, write and speak English. Participants range from those learning English for the first time to citizens and residents of the community who are functionally illiterate or unable to manage daily living and employment tasks that require skills beyond an elementary level. Each tutor is matched with a student for weekly tutoring sessions. My tutee, Libo, is a young woman from China. She studied some English in China where she attended college, but ended up moving to the United States when her husband enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Every Friday, Libo and I meet at a coffee shop and focus on conversation, pronunciation, reading and writing. There was a significant cultural exchange that took place as well. We talked about history, politics, cultural norms and traditions – both American and Chinese.
Inside: Do you have a favorite memory or story from volunteering?
Amanda: When Libo and I started working together she was very quiet and isolated herself from the fast-talking American lifestyle. We began with restaurant menus and transitioned to reading Hemingway and Kafka. As her English improved, her confidence did too. Libo, now funny and social, is not just a tutee but my friend. Libo welcomed the birth of her first son and lovingly calls me his auntie.
Inside: What advice would you give to others who are considering volunteering?
Amanda: Volunteering breaks barriers like illiteracy. Whether you volunteer for LVGW or another organization, you are donating your time to build a sustainable community for the future. You learn about yourself and the people you are helping, and it’s an eye-opening experience.
Interview Credits: Unum internal newsletter 9/5/2017