“My students, most of whom are refugees or migrants, have often been through the most horrific experiences, yet they come to my classes each week because they want to be there.
“Each individual is different in what they get out of class and their motivations. They come for the community and social aspect of the classes and because it is a safe place where they can practice their English. Some people, especially the younger participants, come because they are ambitious and want to learn so they can progress to TAFE or University study.
“Our classes aren’t competitive, it’s all about comradery. If someone is struggling, everyone helps them out, there’s a real spirit of looking after each other.”
Held at MercyCare’s Mirrabooka office, Russell teaches three classes a week of English as a Second Language and computing. He has been bringing his skills as a volunteer to MercyCare for six years.
Russell started with a degree in Accounting and Finance but despised being chained to a desk. He took to travelling before returning to do his Graduate Diploma and Masters in Teaching English as a Second Language and working as an academic at the University of Western Australia.
He again embarked for overseas to teach English in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and China, feeding his love for travelling and learning about different cultures.
Disliking the focus on exams and charges, Russell said he took like a “duck to water” teaching MercyCare’s free English classes as a volunteer.
“I’ve always liked teaching. Helping people achieve something is a really lovely feeling. I get to know my students and I learn a lot from them.
“They really put life into perspective for you. Essentially, I’m an Australian living a comparatively privileged life. You hear what they have been through and it really gives you some perspective to appreciate life.”