From volunteer to priest

RossDuring National Volunteers’ Week, one of the Centre’s volunteers, Ross, will become a priest of the Diocese of Portsmouth. Here Ross shares why he decided to volunteer with the Centre as part of his training to become a priest and what it was like to work with young people wanting to turn their lives around.

As part of our formation program for priesthood I opted to go to the Cardinal Hume Centre because I had heard so many good things about it and because I have a passion and desire to work with those on the fringes of society in the area of justice and human dignity.

I was made to feel very welcome by the staff at the Cardinal Hume Centre. They quickly worked out where my skill set and previous experiences would be most useful. Having come from a background in Education, we decided I would help two men in their desire to improve their English skills.

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The first client was a young man from Sudan. His spoken English was very good, but his written English and understanding of English vocabulary needed some attention. He was a student at a local college and needed some extra help with his studies but was unable to afford a private tutor or access help elsewhere. He came to the Centre for help because other members of his family had been supported by it in the past. He rightly thought the Centre would help him with his studies and share his hope of achieving some good GCSE grades to help him find employment in the future.

His request for assistance from the Centre came shortly before I arrived, so we had a full academic year to work on his English. The Centre matched us up and we met once a week, working together on his college studies and improving his written and spoken English. By the end of the year his life had been changed for the better because his confidence had improved in talking to others. His marks at the college had also improved, as had his chances to access employment.

My second client was also a young man from a former French speaking country. His spoken English was good, but he was unable to read English. He had been employed for many years as a bouncer but the company he worked for had closed. He became unemployed and his access to other work was highly limited because of his inability to read. He approached the Centre because of its reputation in helping people with English as a second language. The Centre matched me with him, so I started teaching him how to read English from scratch.

Thanks to the kind generosity of the Centre’s donors there were excellent resources available to help me with this task. The ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Department has all the latest resources in this area and I was able to put together a suitable plan for my client with the help of the ESOL staff.

By the end of my time with the Centre, my client had learnt to read very basic English books and was able to recognise words on forms and signs. When I left the Centre at the end of the academic year the ESOL Department were able to find a suitable volunteer to continue the work we had been doing.

The Cardinal Hume Centre was a wonderful place to be and the staff are very motivated in their commitment to help those who are on the fringes of society. With the help of kind, generous donors, the Cardinal Hume Centre really is a force for good in central London, which can be hostile to new arrivals and those on the very fringes of society who are most in need.

Congratulations to Ross on his ordination to the priesthood.