Volunteer Impact: The Unique Journey of Diane and Ellen

At Bedford Public Library, a unique tale of language, culture, and personal growth unfolds every week at the branch’s English Language Learning (ELL) program. As we highlight Volunteer Appreciation Week, we spotlight the enriching journey of Diane Swansey, a seasoned volunteer with a passion for teaching and world cultures, and Ellen Long, an enthusiastic learner eager to navigate her new life in Canada—a powerful example of the transformative impact of volunteering.

A Meeting of Minds Across Cultures

"I was a teacher—I guess I still am,” says Diane, whose extensive background in education has made her well-suited to help newcomers adjust to life in Halifax, and makes the ELL program a perfect fit for her.

“I have also travelled widely and lived in Europe,” says Diane. “I’m very interested in world cultures.”

With a love for meeting people who are just beginning their Canadian journeys, connecting with ELL learners over the years has been a joy for Diane.

“It's enriched my life—I’m very blessed,” says Diane. “Several of the people I've had over the years are still good friends, and we stay in touch. One family in particular, I'm now the nana to their two children. I gain more than I give, I think.”

Needless to say, meeting Ellen was yet another opportunity for shared cultural enrichment. Ellen embarked on her journey to Canada from China with hopes and aspirations, quickly recognizing the critical role of English.

“When I arrived here, I realized I should keep studying my English," says Ellen. “To be a newcomer, you should learn English and study English with locals.”

Language and Kindness

Diane and Ellen’s paths crossed at the Bedford Library, where weekly ELL sessions became a bridge not just for language learning, but for cultural exchange and understanding.

From their first meeting, despite language differences, Diane and Ellen's connection was evident—as was Ellen's desire to learn, which shone through the initial barriers.

“She was hesitant to try her English,” remembers Diane, noting Ellen’s English is always improving. “But we'll talk about any topic that I bring up, in her own way at first—it's getting better and better.”

Unexpected Moments and Lasting Friendships

What started as weekly English sessions has evolved into a meaningful friendship.

Ellen notes she’s found in Diane not only a tutor but a figure of warmth and familiarity.

"She is very kind and also very patient and polite,” says Ellen. “She gives me a very warm feeling and she also looks like my grandmother.”

The bond they share is just like family. In fact, one of the most memorable moments in their journey of cultural sharing involved a gesture of gratitude that left a lasting impression on Diane.

"One thing that was very dear was that Ellen arrived at my building with a great big live king crab," says Diane. “I had to Google how to cook it.”

"I think we've become familiar with each other,” adds Diane. “She's come to accept me as a friend and someone that she can talk with or ask questions.”

More Than Just Language Lessons

Aside from receiving delicious delicacies, for Diane, the volunteer experience has been equally satisfying, offering her insights into new cultures and perspectives.

And, Ellen's enthusiasm for the ELL program reflects her positive experience and Diane’s impact.

"I already introduced some friends to join that program,” says Ellen. “The English class is not just about language; it's about connection."

Inspired to Make a Difference?

As we celebrate Volunteer Appreciation Week, Diane and Ellen’s inspiring story shows how anyone can contribute to, and enrich our community. Whether through skill sharing, cultural exchange, or simply giving an hour or two, the impact of simple acts can be profound and impactful.

“I’ve learned a lot, I've gained a lot—it's been a total pleasure,” says Diane.

Ready to contribute to our vibrant community? Discover the joy of volunteering with us. Learn more and get involved here, opens a new window.

In celebrating Volunteer Appreciation Week, we're reminded of the transformative power of volunteerism, the joy of shared experiences, and the lasting impact of genuine connections. To all our volunteers, thank you for making a difference every day.