Volunteer Darien Duck (second from left) with LINC students and LINC co-ordinator Esther Karasova (centre) on a recent walk through Puntledge Park. Photo supplied

Volunteer Darien Duck (second from left) with LINC students and LINC co-ordinator Esther Karasova (centre) on a recent walk through Puntledge Park. Photo supplied

NATIONAL VOLUNTEER WEEK: 87-year-old volunteer a blessing to Immigrant Welcome Centre

By Kristine Salzmann

Special to The Record

For Darien Duck, the Comox Valley felt like home long before she moved here from Ottawa. Duck would travel here twice yearly to visit her parents while they were alive and then moved here a decade ago.

Now Duck, 87, helps people new to the community and Canada make this their home, too. She is a volunteer with The Immigrant Welcome Centre’s English language program, LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada).

She enjoys spending time with the students and admires the courage it takes to move to a new country and learn how to express yourself in a new language. She said she’s always had an interest in teaching English and had taken most of the TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) courses prior to moving west. While taking TESL, she enrolled in a conversational German course to experience the challenge of learning another language as an adult. “The courage it takes them [newcomers] to try – any help we can give them, it’s a privilege,” she says.

LINC coordinator and instructor Esther Karasova says Duck’s open heart for people and dedication to her work is inspiring. “She always takes the time to talk to students before and after class and makes them feel very welcome and very much a part of our community.”

Duck started volunteering with LINC about two years prior to the start of the pandemic. She assists Karasova with small group instruction and joins the students on field trips, such as a recent walk through Puntledge Park.

When asked why she continues to volunteer at 87, she says, “Well, why not? I enjoy it – I look forward to it and I am delighted that we won’t be back on Zoom. And, I have met some very interesting other volunteers there. And Esther is just so welcoming to the volunteers and the students.”

She looks for other opportunities for continued learning and growth, taking exercise classes and regularly enrolling in courses through ElderCollege.

Karasova says the relationships that form between the students and Duck are invaluable. “The students look up to her as a grandparent, someone that perhaps they miss from their home country.”

LINC is a federally funded program for new immigrants and refugees that focuses on English needed for settlement and employment in Canada. If you are a newcomer to Canada interested in learning more about LINC, contact the Immigrant Welcome Centre at 250-338-6359 or visit www.immigrantwelcome.ca. All volunteer positions are currently full.

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