International Volunteer Day

5th December was International Volunteer Day so we spoke to one of our students who loves to volunteer.

Diego Gamboa, 35 is from Bogota in Colombia, with a background in graphic and interactive design and software engineering.

Diego Gamboa.

In Colombia, he worked as a software developer for MediaMonks. However, working for a multinational company and liaising with American, Dutch, Indian and French colleagues and partners, all of whom communicated in English, he realised he needed to enhance his English skills to progress in his career. Diego did well when he was conversing about technical issues but struggled when trying to initiate small talk or build relationships around mutual interests or experiences.

On the recommendation of a friend he decided to join an Advanced English course at Malvern London. With the support of his teachers and peers, Diego made great progress over the course of a year. However, he was not satisfied as although he was comfortable with English in the classroom he still felt he lacked confidence when communicating in daily life – he also felt he needed greater exposure to different accents, dialects and phrases encountered in the real world. Therefore, friends suggested volunteering to gain confidence in communicating.

Diego felt this was an excellent idea and asked Malvern for help. The staff at Malvern facilitated an introduction with Voluntary Action Islington and Diego was able to secure a volunteering placement at Holloway Neighbourhood Group (close to his accommodation), where he teaches elderly clients how to use technology.

Diego reveals, “One of the clients I helped was an animator and loved children. At the start, she couldn’t post on Instagram or Facebook, but at the end of her time with me, she was able to post regular images and to develop and post bespoke videos and songs. She became super enthusiastic, and each week created new content for children which she distributed though her social media accounts.”

Diego loves volunteering even though it has been challenging at times. “When I first started, I was teaching someone with a mental disability who was scared of the biometric scanner on the phone as they felt they would then be spied upon. They also had a strong accent and I could barely understand them. However, over time I was able to communicate calmly and clearly with the client and succeeded in winning them over and getting them to use different technologies. Now the client, who is a music aficionado, loves listening to Spotify, creating playlists and benefits from recommendations – this one app has changed their life for the better and been a really rewarding experience for me.”

Through the combination of English classes at Malvern and volunteering with Voluntary Action Islington, Diego’s became confident and fluent in English. Subsequently he applied for a job as a Fullstack Developer, where the hiring process was entirely in English. He has been successful in securing the role and will start the next chapter in his life working for Media Market in Barcelona in January 2023.

We wish you Diego good luck for the future and his new life in sunny Barcelona!