Volunteer Spotlight

Emily Soltanoff poses in front of a lake on her visit to Iceland last summer.

A short time ago, ILI former volunteer coordinator Laura Robinson* sat down with volunteer tutor Emily Soltanoff to talk about the whys of Emily’s commitment to volunteerism. Read on to learn about what drives Emily in this direction.

LR: How long have you been volunteering with ILI?

ES: I’ve been volunteering for about three and a half years.

LR: What do you enjoy about volunteering?

ES: It’s been wonderful to connect across cultures, find common ground, share a laugh and compare experiences with the three remarkable women I’ve tutored. Each arrived in this area from different parts of the world with very different life stories and different levels of proficiency in English. I’ve been wowed by each of them–their courage, incredible hard work and optimism is inspiring–and humbling! I enjoy being a source of encouragement and positive feedback for them. I think of my job each week as providing a low-pressure, friendly forum for my learner to practice and stretch her skills.

LR: Why is volunteering important to you?

ES: Volunteering is a way to get outside of my own little concerns and be of help in a small way to someone else. I also love our crazy, tricky language and hope that by helping English learners they’ll come to find joy in reading, writing, and speaking it too!

LR: Why did you decide to become a volunteer?

ES: My husband and I moved to the area a few years ago. We were just moving across the state–not across the world!–but it was still daunting to find our way in an unfamiliar place. Volunteering at ILI was a way to connect to my new community and help others who are making a much more major adjustment.

LR: What do you do outside of your volunteer work?

ES: I love to read, write, cook, draw, and do yoga. And I recently took up lap swimming at our fabulous local Y.

*In January 2022, our volunteer program earned ILI the distinction as western Massachusetts’ first Service Enterprise Organization, certified by the MA Service Alliance and the international Points of Light organization. Want to join our volunteer tutor corps or in some other important volunteer capacity at ILI? You are more than welcome! Just contact our current Volunteer Coordinator Jeanne Barron at jeanne@ili.edu