I don’t think I’m being dramatic when I say that things are a bit out of control right now. If you’re like me, opening your phone is like peeking into a tissue you’ve just used to kill a spider - you’re scared to look because it’s going to be horrifying and gross.

This is the time of year folks might consider doing something to help others and also make themselves feel better about this hellscape of a world we live in. I was such a person last year. I found Literacy Buffalo Niagara and it changed my life. 

Literacy Buffalo Niagara is a super great nonprofit organization that helps people learn to read. This includes people who can use some help improving their reading and writing as well as people who are new to Buffalo, looking for help in English as a new language. LBN trains volunteers who in turn teach men and women these skills.

What does it take to volunteer? About two hours a week. You have to take a short course to get certified but it is truly not difficult. Once you’re trained, you write up lesson plans and meet with a student in a library once a week, for about an hour.

This blog might not be for everyone because most of us do not have spare time. We live hectic lives. I totally get that, and I don’t write these words to try and make folks feel bad. I’m writing about this in case it gets to the one or two people who were looking for something to do and didn’t know where to put their energy. I don’t have kids. My social calendar is not packed. For me, LBN was a perfect fit.

There are rewards to volunteering. While tutoring, I’ve learned a lot about the city of Buffalo. I’ve experienced what life is like for someone who struggles with reading and writing (Try filling out a job application in a different language). I’ve become familiar with a different culture. My student has become a good friend. 

I had no idea if I’d be good at tutoring and I’ll admit it was kind of awkward for the first lesson, but it gets easier. We’ve made incredible progress in less than a year. There’s little I’ve done in my life that matches the joy I feel in every little accomplishment we make.

Literacy Buffalo Niagara could use more volunteers, because there are a lot of folks in Buffalo who actively want to improve their situation. You’d be helping someone who wants help, and there’s no bigger impact you can make on the world than improving literacy. Plus, you’ll be given constant support and all the resources you need.

Watching people shout at each other on the internet destroys my soul. Spending two fewer hours a week doing that is a step I needed in improving my mental health. If that sounds like you, look into it. Full disclosure, I do not work for Literacy Buffalo Niagara, I only volunteer, so I do not speak for the organization. I would, however, do anything for them because they’re awesome.

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