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0150 Volunteer Work

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 150: Volunteer Work.

You’re listening to English as a Second Language Podcast episode 150. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

On this podcast, we’re going to learn about people who volunteer their time to help others. Let’s get started!

[start of story]

Some people say that it's civic duty to "give back" to your community. That's true, but for me, I want to do some volunteer work so that I can feel useful. I've been working at the same job for years and it's not at all rewarding. Yes, I make good money, but I never feel like I'm doing any good in the world.

When I was in college, I had dreams of changing the world. I wanted to work in a non- profit organization that did relief work, that helped women and children in need, or that had an impact on public policy. I've begun to think again about those dreams and thought I might take the first step of doing some volunteering. Then, I can see if I like that kind of work and make some hard decisions.

I called an organization that helped homeless children. I told them about my education and experience, and they said they could use someone like me to do some tutoring. I filled out an application and was fingerprinted for a background check. A few weeks later, I met my student and I tutored her for the first time. It was a great experience. I wish I had done it earlier!

[end of story]

In this podcast, Lucy talks about volunteer work. She begins by saying, “Some people say it’s civic duty to give back to your community.” “Civic (civic) duty (duty)” means that it is your responsibility as a citizen of a country, as a member of a society, that you help other people. “Civic” (civic) usually relates to the public helping people in a public way. “Duty” (duty) means responsibility. So, it’s sort of your public responsibility to other people. “To give back” means that you are trying to repay or return to the larger public – what they have, perhaps, helped you with or given you. Lucy says that she wanted to do some volunteer work so that she could feel useful. Although “work” (work) is normally something that we think about as getting paid for, you can also have a “volunteer work” and (volunteer) “volunteer” is when you don’t get paid, when you help someone because you want to help them.

She says that she’s been working at the same job and that it’s not rewarding. “Rewarding” (rewarding) – something that is rewarding is something that you get a benefit from – that gives you something back for what you are doing, that you feel is important or useful. We can sometimes say, “That was a very rewarding trip if you were able to get something that you wanted from it.” So, when Lucy says her work is “not at all rewarding,” she’s saying that it is not rewarding very much or not rewarding at all. It’s not something that is giving her pleasure or giving her a benefit.

She says that when she was in college, she had dreams of changing the world and that’s probably pretty common. She said she wanted to work in a “non-profit organization” that did relief work. A “non (non) profit (profit)” – can be all one word or (non)-profit. A “nonprofit” is an organization that doesn’t try to make money. It doesn’t try to have a profit. It’s not like a business. So, the Red Cross or the Crescent, the Red Crescent, are both examples of a nonprofit organization. “Relief work” (relief) – “relief work” is the work that certain organizations like the Red Cross and Red Crescent – these are organizations that help people who are in a disaster area – maybe an area where there is war going on. These are examples of relief work.

One type of work that Lucy was interested in was helping women and children in need or work that had an impact on public policy. The expression “in need” (need) – “in need” – means that you need something, usually because you are poor or because you had something bad happen to you and now you need someone else to help you. Normally, though, we think about this expression “in need” as talking about someone who’s very poor or in a very difficult situation.

To have an “impact on public policy” means to have in influence on the laws or programs of the government. “Public policy” really refers to anything that the government does – what their programs, their ideas – where they spend their money – these are all part of public policy. And there are many people who work to try to change the policy. My nephew, for example, works in Washington D.C – the capital of the United States – for a political organization, and he is trying to have an impact on public policy. He’s young – graduated from college – what we would say, “very idealistic.” “Idealistic” (idealistic) – “idealistic” means that you believe that you can change the world. You have lots of ideas and you want to convince other people to adopt or to put into place your ideas – that would be “idealistic” – that’s the adjective. The person would be an “idealist” and the idea of “idealistic” would be “idealism” (idealism). So, those are all words that we might talk about for those who want to change public policy.

Lucy decided that she was going to call an organization that helped “homeless” children. “Homeless” (homeless) refers to people who don’t have a home – people who are living without a permanent home. And unfortunately, in the United States, as in many countries, there is a homeless – a large homeless population. Here in Los Angeles, for example, if you go to some parts of the city, you will see people who are living on the street and one of the things that many volunteer organizations try to do is help those who do not have anywhere to go. In the case of Lucy, she said that she wanted to do some “tutoring.” “To tutor” (tutor) is when you help someone in school. Usually, tutoring is done “one-on-one.” “One-on-(on)-one” – and “one-on-one” means there’s just you, as the tutor, and the student that you are helping.– There’re just two people.

Well, she had to fill out an application for this tutoring work. An “application” is what we call the paper that you put your information on. If you want to get a job, you often have to fill out an application. If you want to get a credit card, you have to fill out an application. In this case, Lucy wants to volunteer so she has to fill out an application. Notice the verb there “to fill out” – two words – means to put information on an application. The verb is “to apply.” So, “I’m applying for a job,” or “I’m applying for a position” – that means you’re trying to get it.

Well, as is true for all teachers in California and in many other states, you have to get “fingerprinted.” “Fingerprint” (fingerprint) is a verb. It’s also a noun. And as you probably can guess, it means that you have to take your fingers and now, it’s done by a computer electronically. They “scan” (scan) – means they like take a picture – similar to taking a picture – of your fingers and, of course, everyone has a unique set of fingerprints – that’s the mark that your fingers make when you touch something. We use fingerprints, for example, to find criminals. If they left their fingerprints, we say. We look at them and we try to match them. Well, part of the security for schools and for children is to have people who work there, including the teachers – need to get fingerprinted and then an organization, usually a private company, will do a search and they will look at all of the criminal records because, if you commit a crime in the United States – you do something wrong and you’re arrested, meaning the police take you and put you in jail, they will fingerprint you and they keep a big database – a big list of all these fingerprints on computer and then if you are a criminal, they don’t want you working with children. So, that’s why teachers and others get “fingerprinted” in the United States if you are working at a school and for other things as well.

Getting fingerprinted is part of a “background check.” A “background (background) check (check)” – a “background check” is when someone looks into your background, your history – make sure you weren’t a criminal or that you haven’t had problems with the police – that’s a background check.

Now let’s listen to the story this time at a native rate of speech.

[start of story]

Some people say that it's civic duty to "give back" to your community. That's true but for me, I want to do some volunteer work so that I can feel useful. I've been working at the same job for years and it's not at all rewarding. Yes, I make good money, but I never feel like I'm doing any good in the world.

When I was in college, I had dreams of changing the world. I wanted to work in a non- profit organization that did relief work, that helped women and children in need, or that had an impact on public policy. I've begun to think again about those dreams and thought I might take the first step of doing some volunteering. Then, I can see if I like that kind of work and make some hard decisions.

I called an organization that helped homeless children. I told them about my education and experience, and they said they could use someone like me to do some tutoring. I filled out an application and was fingerprinted for a background check. A few weeks later, I met my student and I tutored her for the first time. It was a great experience. I wish I had done it earlier!

[end of story]

The script for today’s podcast was written and read by our very own Dr. Lucy Tse.

That’s all we have time for today. Remember to visit our website at eslpod.com for the script of today’s story as well as more information about this podcast.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. This podcast is copyright 2006.


Glossary
civic duty – a responsibility or task that one should do because he or she is part of a community or group of people

* Emily believes that it’s everyone’s civic duty to vote in each election.


to give back – to do something good for others because good things have happened to oneself

* Charles owned a company and wanted to give back to all the people who helped him achieve his goal.


volunteer work – work or labor that one does without getting paid to do it; work that one does even though one does not need to do it, but that benefits others

* After Suzette leaves her office, she does volunteer work at an animal shelter and helps the shelter care for its animals.


rewarding – fulfilling; creating a feeling of happiness or importance in oneself

* Finishing the difficult project gave each member of the group a very rewarding feeling.


to make good money – to earn a good amount of money; to earn enough money to pay for everything that one needs

* Julio made good money at his company and lived in a nice house.


non-profit – not done to earn extra money, but to help others

* Janet worked at a non-profit organization because she wanted to help others and did not care about making a large amount of money.


relief work – work or labor one does to help someone else who is suffering

* Archie did relief work to help people who lost their houses during the recent storm.


in need – lacking in items or care that one needs to survive; needing help, care, or money

* Paulette’s aunt and uncle lost their jobs and suddenly were in need of help.


public policy – rules and guidelines created by a government; ideas that form laws or official rules

* It was the city’s public policy to give services to everyone, regardless of age, race, sex, or ability.


the first step – the first action one must take before doing something bigger or reaching a goal; an action one must take before doing any other action

* The first step in making friends is meeting new people.


homeless – without a home; without a permanent place to live

* The family’s house burned in a fire, and now the family was homeless.


tutoring – informally teaching; providing a student extra help so that the student understands his or her schoolwork better

* Jacques did poorly on his history exams and decided that he needed tutoring to help him do better in history class.


application – a document one writes when asking for something, such as a job; a written form or paper one completes to ask for something

* Miyako wanted to work at the bookstore so she filled out an application.


to be fingerprinted – to have the unique marks on one’s finger printed on paper using ink, usually done to learn about someone’s past or to create a legal record of someone

* After the criminal was arrested, the police had him fingerprinted and learned that he had broken the same law before.


background check – a review of someone’s past done to learn if that person is safe or if that person ever broke any laws

* Lorenzo’s employer did a background check and learned that Lorenzo had never been convicted of a crime.

Culture Note
The Adopt-a-Highway Program

The Adopt-a-Highway Program is a “partnership” (cooperation between two or more people or groups) program between state governments and private businesses and organizations. “Essentially” (basically), it is a way for businesses to “sponsor” (pay for or provide) the maintenance of a section of the highway. As of 2009, the program is available in 13 states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Washington State.

An individual, an organization, or a business can be a sponsor and provide maintenance, which includes removing “litter” (trash), planting trees and flowers, and removing unwanted “graffiti” (writing and drawings). The sponsors can volunteer to do this work themselves or hire a maintenance service to do it for them.

In California, for example, over 15,000 miles of roads have been maintained using this program. Each sponsor is given a two-mile “stretch” (distance) and commits to five years.

The state saves money, but what do the organizations and business get out of it? “In return” (in exchange) for maintenance, the company gets their name on a sign that is “erected” (put up) on the side of the highway to honor someone or to get “publicity” (attention). Since most highways are “well-traveled” (with many people passing on it) and the signs are easily seen from the road, businesses get attention, and hopefully, “goodwill” (friendly attitude) for their sponsorship. Although the companies get some benefit from participating in the form of advertising for their business, most people consider participation in the Adopt-a-Highway program to be “public-minded,” an unselfish action that benefits the general public.