Volunteer of the Month

Volunteer of the Month

January 4, 2019

Susan Schneider
Name:  Susan Schroeder
Property:  The Altenheim

Why did you choose to volunteer with Eden Housing?

I had volunteered teaching English to immigrants for two years when I saw the request for someone to teach ESL to residents at The Altenheim. I have long admired its peaceful, beautiful grounds in the midst of a busy, noisy city.  I had taught ESL to women with small children, so the opportunity to teach older students was appealing–especially given that I am 71 years old, so I would certainly fit in!

What have you done as a volunteer?  Please describe your role and what you have worked on.

My role as a volunteer ESL teacher is to create an environment where students feel comfortable speaking up and trying to pronounce words with totally foreign sounds; teach at a level and in a way that the students can understand (I speak about three words of Chinese so there is no explaining things in their language!) and make the classes fun and relevant to the students.

What have you learned through your volunteer experience?  Have there been any surprises? I

have learned a lot through my work at The Altenheim! The students are eager to learn and work hard at the lessons! These older adults want to learn, partly to help them function in their new country, but also just because they want to keep learning new things, and find new challenges in life.  I deeply admire their desire to learn despite the obstacles they face.  Like me, they want to keep their brains working, even as they age.

What do you like best about volunteering with Eden Housing?

I love the friendly energy at Eden Housing, the wonderful sense of humor of the students, and the staff that sometimes poke their heads in and chat for a moment. Our class is small, but brimming over with energy and enthusiasm! I believe Eden provides an essential service to our county, and does so in a gracious and warm way.

Are there any tips that you would share for someone else who is considering volunteering?

I would certainly encourage anyone to volunteer at any Eden Housing community.  It is easy to sign up, clear guidelines and support are offered, and communication is maintained so that there is really no burden placed on the volunteer. But more important is that you will make friends with people you would never expect to get to know, and every time you walk away after volunteering, you will find yourself smiling and appreciating the diversity of our community. If you find yourself fretting about the world situation, or feel that you can’t do much to make a difference, come spend a few hours with Eden residents and you will see that there are so many good people in the world that we can have hope, — and have fun.

Tell us something we may not know about you. Any interesting facts you’d like to share about your life?

I am a proud sixth generation Californian.  My first ancestor in California was a sailor who jumped ship (illegally) in San Francisco when the gold rush started. He was followed by my Italian Swiss ancestors, dairy ranchers who came to Sonoma County as “WOPs” – (With Out Papers), some of the first “undocumented immigrants” to arrive here!