Ahmad came to Saskatoon in 2019 to pursue a master’s degree in biology from the University of Saskatchewan, where he had been offered a scholarship. Originally from Iran, coming to Canada “opened a new chapter in my life,” Ahmad says. “I am really grateful for this opportunity given to me by the university and the Canadian government.”
Shortly after arrival, Ahmad saw a post about volunteering with Global Gathering Place on the university website and wanted to be of service to his new community. Ahmad says, “Volunteering is a rewarding thing to do mentally and emotionally. When I can offer help and ease a burden from a person’s shoulder, I feel happy about myself. So, I grabbed the opportunity to be involved in this activity.”
Having worked as a teacher in Iran, Ahmad was well-equipped to volunteer as a teacher assistant in ESL classes. “It was amazing,” Ahmad says. “I enjoyed every moment.” Working with GGP teacher Tammi Bohle, Ahmad learned about the education system in Canada and techniques for helping language learners of all levels.
About Tammi, Ahmad says, “She’s a passionate teacher who comes up with ways to break significant language barriers.” Ahmad remembers one entry level learner who was really struggling. Tammi used Google Translate in combination with hand motions to teach this student. “It was a lot of effort and I really admire the way she teaches.”
He also fondly remembers potluck events where the class shared their food on a big table. “It was one of the times that culture and cuisine met, and I got a good education about foods from different parts of world. I felt like I’m in a cooking school, and everyone was eager to share information about their food and how it is made.”
When the pandemic hit, Ahmad continued volunteering in ESL classes through Zoom, which he says has its challenges but is fun too. In addition, Ahmad also volunteers as an interpreter for newcomers when they want to see a doctor, go to an interview, or take an exam.
When asked how volunteering with GGP has shaped him, Ahmad sees the impact of interacting with people from different cultures on his life and personality. “Being in such a diverse community helped me widen my perspective and have a better understanding of what I could not understand in the past.”
Ahmad has felt his tolerance and respect for different ideas and beliefs grow. “Now, I strongly believe that when the door for dialogue and communication is open, many of the conflicts and misunderstandings will be solved, and by this we can have more peace.”