An Interview with Numeracy and Literacy Mentor, James De Graaff

Volunteer Profile

For this month’s profile, we’re chatting to James De Graaff, a volunteer tutor at the Colac Homework Club, run by Diversitat. The coordinators, Carolyn and Brittany, sung the praises of James in a chat last year, so we were pleased to learn more about him and his volunteering story.

How did you get involved with your club and how long have you been volunteering?

I have always had an interest in mentoring/tutoring since my children were at primary school. Literacy is such a crucial skill for everyone. My work hours did not permit my participation in the formal tutoring programs that were available while my children attended secondary school. About 4 years ago, during Colac’s annual “Kana” Festival, Carolyn Gatti had a “Harmony Day ” display including a notice looking for mentors in their Homework Program, and I joined the club then.

What’s your role at the club and what do you like most about it?

I’m a numeracy/literacy mentor and encourage participation in all activities. I enjoy working with the children, families, other volunteers and staff. It is really good to see the children being proud of what they have achieved. I also enjoy being accepted by the group, as I was the first and for a long time, the only male volunteer in the Colac group, so I had to gain the confidence of the group over a period of time. Some of the younger children found my height a bit daunting (I’m 195cm or about 6’5’’)! I enjoy watching the children progress over the year with their school work, English skills and gain more confidence. Working with the kids has also helped my recovery from brain surgery that left me with a poor memory and “hit and miss” cognitive skills at times.

What’s been a highlight of your experience with your club?

It is difficult to find one specific highlight in the past couple of years. Watching the children grow and develop their skills and social interactions is very rewarding. Watching the kids take pride in making Mother’s /Father’s Day presents and cards. Every Tuesday night is very rewarding.

What would your advice for new volunteers at homework clubs be?

Give it a go, it can be a lot of fun. I would encourage new volunteers to get fully involved with all the activities the kids are doing e.g wearing masks or hats, or maths quizzes . The more you put in, the more enjoyable the sessions are. Volunteers need to be prepared for the directness of the children e.g. ‘why do you have grey hair?’ and ‘why do you wear glasses?’ etc.

Thanks for sharing James!

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