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Testimonials from participating schools and volunteers

What do the teachers, pupils and volunteers think of the EfL Reading Programme?
 Here are some of their responses.

From teachers and other school staff

"… very soon we had a waiting list. "

"Many of our pupils would not have access to additional adult time, male role models and one-to-one attention."

"With this help [from EfL] we know our children can be lifelong readers and that is a wonderful gift to bestow upon a child."

"The pupils cannot wait to go to their session and indeed will happily sacrifice other things in order not to miss their time."
"At Malvern Primary School we value the time our Equipping for Life volunteers spend with our children. As well as having the opportunity to talk about their reading interests, the children form relationships and bond with the volunteers. The children look forward to the extended reading time. They have the opportunity to talk about themselves and their work in school with an adult who is not officially part of the school i.e. a teacher or classroom assistant. For some children, it is a time when they can read aloud in a safe environment where that they don’t feel judged by others in their class. For others, it is a chance to practice reading aloud and discuss their books at length.

Here, at Malvern, our children read extensively as part of our Accelerated Reading programme and are given time to read in our library and our ‘Starbooks’ reading café.

Equipping for Life volunteers provide a further outlet to promote the love of reading and extend that enjoyment beyond the classroom. With this help we know our children can be lifelong readers and that is a wonderful gift to bestow upon a child."
Genevieve McSorley Principal, Malvern Primary School
“Our pupils have benefitted greatly from the one-to-one reading experience they have had through EfL. The children have blossomed academically, socially and spiritually. They look forward very much to their weekly sessions with the devoted group of volunteers.”
Judith Stevenson Principal Forth, River Primary School
"We have been very impressed with the manner in which Equipping for Life is run. From the outset we have been struck by the high calibre and gentle nature of the team in general and in their approach to working along with us in setting up the volunteer tutors in our school. Schools are busy places and teachers can be under considerable pressure. The team seemed to have an instinctive understanding of this and listened fully to suggestions about how this could work best within Springhill.

We were also struck by the immediate and almost entirely positive responses from the parents of pupils first offered the places.

We selected our pupils partly on ability but also through judging which children would simply benefit most from the one-to-one nature of the sessions. Many of our children do not have access to this sort of time and attention in day-to-day life. They benefit greatly from the opportunities to read with and for articulate and interested adults, as well as conversing with them.

The enthusiasm of our pupils towards this scheme is obvious and I believe is similarly so in other schools where the scheme operates. The pupils cannot wait to go to their session and indeed will happily sacrifice other things in order not to miss their time. As a teacher I am reminded that the ‘volunteers’ must be recorded on our messages board for each coming week. It is interesting that one of our pupils who we knew would benefit but who was initially reticent and chose not to attend has since become involved and is enjoying the sessions. This is down to her class teacher who has encouraged her, her family and also at least partly down to the enthusiasm of her peers for the scheme.

There are certainly other pupils who would like to be involved but as you are aware our difficulty is providing enough time in an equally pleasant space to accommodate any additional volunteers – however – never say never.

Finally, can we thank you for including our school in this positive, valuable and worthwhile experience. The opportunity for our pupils is very greatly appreciated. Kind regards and many thanks indeed so far.
Janet Smyth (English Co-Ordinator) and Janet Lyness (Acting Principal) Springhill Primary School
The Senior Management of Edenbrooke Primary School have been very impressed and inspired by Equipping for Life from the word go. From the very first meeting with Brother David we were struck by a tremendous sense of enthusiasm and commitment to helping the pupils in our community.

This was again very evident when we met the volunteers assigned to Edenbrooke. The volunteer tutors settled quickly into Edenbrooke and are now very much part of our school life. They recognise that schools are busy places and teachers can be under considerable pressure.

Parents were very keen for their children to be involved in this project; pupils were offered places, and very soon we had a waiting list. Many of our pupils would not have access to additional adult time, male role models and one-to-one attention.

The opportunity to read with an interested adult is always very appealing and rewarding for both parties. The pupils cannot wait to go to their Friday sessions, do not want to miss their time and have already asked can they read with their volunteer tutor next year.

At the Equipping for Life launch in the Spectrum Centre in June 2019, I had the opportunity to read alongside a P7 Edenbrooke pupil, a boy who I had taught in Primary 1. He was naturally nervous walking to the event, but his attitude changed as soon as we walked in. All he wanted to do was find “his volunteer” and take her to meet his mum—a small example of how much the volunteers mean to the pupils. We have many other pupils who would like to be involved in this very worthwhile project, but our challenge is providing space to accommodate additional volunteers.

We are very grateful that we are part of the Equipping for Life project. It is a rewarding and valuable experience for both pupils and indeed volunteers. We really appreciate the commitment, both in time and positivity, that the volunteers give each week to Edenbrooke Primary School, and also the dedication of Brother David and the wider Equipping for Life Team.

Thank you from all at Edenbrooke.
Lisa Grimason Principal, Edenbrooke Primary School

From Volunteers

"The children burst into our quiet room full of life, bubbling over with excitement and expectancy, lifting our spirits and kick-starting us into gear. It’s just the best feeling of anticipation and reward. The children have no idea how much we appreciate seeing them, welcoming them and working with them. They make my week!"
Heather Glenwood Primary School
"These are just some random thoughts about my time as a volunteer …..

A child I had spent time with came running across the room to see me.

A child folding their hands in prayer and saying amen.

The innocence and trust when they tell me something about their lives without prompting.

A child asking if I’ll be there next week.

Laughter and joy and trust, all these things keep me coming back."
Janet Malvern Primary School
"Having worked with children in a professional capacity during my working life I wanted to continue to make a difference to disadvantaged children in my retirement.

‘Equipping for Life’ has given me that opportunity. The smile on their face when they see you waiting for them at the door and the progress in their reading skills shows how such a small time commitment can make such a huge impact on their lives.

I hope I am changing their lives ….it has certainly changed mine."
Alison Volunteer
"People often talk about things going "the full cycle"! A well known hymn goes "God moves in a mysterious way". I did a placement in Black Mountain Primary School in the year of the late Queen's Silver Jubilee and 45 years later, in the year of the Platinum Jubilee, I found myself back in the school, now retired,as a volunteer!

"How do you get up there?"I've been asked. A short train journey and then the 11b bus to Springmartin terminus!

What a warm, friendly and safe learning environment!

Each week a Primary 4 pupil who enjoys a game of dominoes and reading Bible stories asks me "What's five times sixty nine"?

A short memory question for me to which she replies with something I asked her to remember from the previous week's story!

The social interaction complements the reading so very well!

I really enjoy the journey up the Shankill every week, but, more importantly, it is a real joy to see smiling faces coming through the door on a Tuesday!

Thanks to Joy and Sylvia for commending Equipping for life to me!"
Tom Blackmountain Primary School
"One of my pupils came in mid-September at the start of his primary 3 year with just a handful of recognised words in his vocabulary. Praising, patience and pushing just 30 minutes a week saw him taken off the 'programme' a few months later because he no longer needed support. He was an independent reader!

What a joy this is for us as volunteers to know that small amounts of time can have such a big impact."
Jean Volunteer
"When Jean, a volunteer, told me about EFL I wasn’t a committed Christian.
She lit up when talking about it. She said you wouldn’t believe the results we get from that half-hour one-to-one, once a week. How much the children improve and how much more confident in their reading they became. She was right – I didn’t believe it! I mean what difference could half an hour make?

Well in time I made a commitment to God and naturally I was keen to serve.
I believe reading is key to so much in our world, plus I want the children to not only hear the word of God but to be able to read it for themselves. So, despite my reservations as to not being equipped to coach I put my faith in God to be able to use me and signed up.

So now I’m telling you the same thing Jean told me.
This service is not a heavy yolk. It’s delightful and the other volunteers are a great bunch and really supportive. Really and truely it’s something to look forward to each week and I’m not at a loss for things to do!
As for results, recent feedback from a class teacher was as follows:

‘Pupil A has come on really well, previously I wouldn’t have asked her to stand up and read in front of the class for I think she might have cried. Now she volunteers! She’s improved so much and is so much more confident in her reading. Thank you.’

Well I went out of there on cloud nine…. Praise be to God, for of course it wasn’t me at all."
 Helen Blackmountain Primary School

Monday morning wasn't my favourite day of the week until I became an EFL Volunteer Tutor at Springhill Primary School. Meeting the Team members, praying with these volunteers for the children who would soon join us in the School Library was my introduction to a new Monday morning!

Watching the Children run along the corridor [No Running in Corridors!!!] towards the Library was so encouraging, they just loved the opportunity to have that one to one reading experience and wee chat about themselves and their families. To watch their confidence and self-esteem building was wonderful and praying with each child was special and certainly changed my attitude to Mondays!!
Irene Volunteer Tutor, Springhill Primary School

From Children

“She (volunteer) is very nice to me; she talks to me. Me and her play games together, it’s just really fun.”
“Sylvia is very kind to me and there’s a bunch of different stories in the Bible.”
“I just like reading and playing games and I just like seeing Julie once in a while.”
“We’re trying to finish the Bible reading every single story. The stories, the pictures are good, and it teaches you more about the Bible.”
“Every time I go down it’s really funny and all and we play games.”

Tennis Programme

‘I have enjoyed the experience of learning how to play tennis.’

‘It was great to learn how to hit the ball properly with a racket.’

‘I learnt that tennis was hard but I could do with more practice.’

‘I learnt how to control a tennis ball properly.’

‘I have developed my ability to hit the ball further, faster and more accurately.’
Pupils Springhill Primary School March 2023

Telling Tales from School - Anecdotes from our classrooms, both enlightening and entertaining.

A little boy in one of the schools on the Shankill, who comes every week to the reading class, is also involved in two or three other activities in the school. Because of these other activities he missed the reading class three weeks in a row. So he decided to do something about it. He went along to the Head Teacher and explained what had happened.........then he told the Head that 'under no circumstances must this ever happen again'.
Brother David Jardine was part of a group of Volunteer Tutors being shown around one of the schools where we take children for reading. They went into a class of children about 6 or 7 years old. The children were looking up at all these big people walking around. As David walked towards a little girl a smile came to her face and she said, 'You're all very welcome in this class.'
Money couldn't buy an experience like that. The Volunteer Tutors have received permission from parents to say a short prayer with the child before we begin reading. On one occasion a Volunteer forgot to say the prayer. The little girl leaned forward and in a low voice said, 'the prayer '.

Equipping for Life Limited
Company Number NI654291, Registered 09/07/2018
Company Accounts: Link
Charity Number 108041 Registered 19/04/2021