Interview by Maria Gurovich for The Island Connection
Editor’s Note: Volunteer Spotlight is a column in The Island Connection highlighting members of the community who give their time to help others. If you know of a volunteer who deserves the spotlight email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Cuba native, born of Spanish parents, volunteer Carmen Vence Rivers has been involved as a tutor with Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach’s adult English as a Second Language classes for over 10 years. What first attracted her to the organization then is what still keeps her coming now, “the practical approach to teaching, dedication of the OLMCO staff, lack of waste, cheerful atmosphere, and the tangible results.”
In addition to her own diverse background, Carmen has always been surrounded by different cultures and languages. Very early on she was able to speak three languages that she perfected at various schools in Cuba and North Carolina. She remembers that back when she lived in Havana, she was hired as interpreter by a French company.
Later she worked for Standard Oil of California in Havana where she met her future husband, Henry, a native of Johns Island. Soon after they married, her son, Henry Jr., was born in Havana, their twin daughters, Carolina and Rebecca, were born in Miami, Florida. Carmen and her family have always traveled a lot—Henry’s work took them to various places such as Argentina, England, and Denmark to name only a few. They eventually retired to the family home, Belvidere Plantation on Johns Island.
“The knowledge that gives us the tools and the ability to integrate into the society is what makes a true change in someone’s life,” says Carmen. She thinks that it is also very good for the children to see their parents taking classes because that shows them that learning should be a life-long activity. Carmen has always gone beyond her volunteer duties with the Outreach.
She takes every opportunity to advocate for her students who are attempting to live honest lives while working and attending classes.
Carmen believes that if you want to give back to the community and see the results of your work, you shouldn’t hesitate to get involved. Teaching English to nonnative speakers is a great way to give back and can be very rewarding, especially when you see your students’ eyes light up because they understood something you had explained.
For more information on how to get involved with Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach contact Maria Gurovich via phone 843.559.4109 or email email@example.com.