News and events Blogs I never thought my volunteering would lead me to learn Arabic! Volunteers Week is an annual celebration of the contribution people make to their communities and positive changes to people’s lives through volunteering. From 1st June - 7th June we will be thanking our volunteers for everything they do for unpaid carers here in Gateshead by sharing their experiences of volunteering and what they have been doing during the current coronavirus pandemic. There will be a gallery of photos, videos and stories for everyone to have a look at by going to our website and Facebook page throughout Volunteers Week. Susan and Waseem are both volunteers and share their individual inspiring stories with us. Susan began volunteering with us in 2018 helping on the main reception desk and with general admin tasks. Since then Susan has become more involved with other volunteering roles including being part of the Carers Knowledge Panel and raising awareness of Gateshead Carers as a Community Connector. It was during one of our group meetings that Susan got chatting to one of our new volunteers Waseem. Waseem and his brother came to this country as refugees from Syria. They are both also carers for each other as they have a disability that affects their mobility. When Waseem first arrived he spoke no English however within one year his vocabulary is, as Susan describes, “absolutely amazing”. He self-taught English by watching the TV, which he was able to purchase through a Carer Wellbeing Grant! We are all so impressed at how well Waseem has learnt to speak English in a short space of time he has even mastered the Geordie phrase ‘whey aye man’. Waseem is so enthusiastic and motivated to keep improving his English he is always keen to be involved in helping with group activities and being part of conversations and also regularly contributes to our volunteer WhatsApp group. The WhatsApp group has really helped our volunteers to keep in touch and support each other during the current pandemic. Through their conversations Susan became inspired by Waseem. “Before Lockdown I had been considering learning a new language but hadn't really looked into how I would go about this. Since Lockdown started I have been carrying on with my usual hobbies e.g jigsaws and family tree research but I have decided I would now like to try something new. So I am now starting an online course learning Arabic", explained Susan. "The reason I chose Arabic was because Waseem has worked so hard learning our language I thought if I could even just learn the basic conversational skills it would be nice to chat to Waseem in his own language. Plus when working on the Reception desk it may come in useful when meeting clients whose first language is Arabic", she added. Waseem responded enthusiastically to Susan’s news about learning Arabic by saying ‘that’s awesome. I’m so excited to see you speak Arabic. That would be great’. “I'm not sure how easy it will be to learn especially when I am of a certain age when the brain cells are not what they used to be! However there is no harm in trying and as my husband often says I can be VERY TRYING!” she added.