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Experience in Serbia Inspired Oakland Literacy Council Volunteer to Help Others Learn English

Experience in Serbia Inspired Oakland Literacy Council Volunteer to Help Others Learn English

(Oakland Literacy Council, April 15, 2019)

Check out our “Get Involved Guide” for more stories about local organizations. Thank you to Bosco Lounge for sponsoring this series.  Want to contribute a write up of a group you care about?  Message with your idea.

Bloomfield Hills, MI –Carole Lally remembers how hard it was for her to move to a new country and not speak a word of the local language. She never forgot the kindness of a stranger who became her lifeline, and she vowed to pay the favor forward once she retired. She is doing just that as a volunteer tutor for Oakland Literacy Council, which provides free one-on-one instruction in reading, writing, and speaking English to Oakland County residents.

Years ago, Lally’s husband took a job assignment in Serbia. Although her husband could rely on an interpreter on the job, she was on her own to get around Belgrade. Fortunately, her landlady spoke some English and offered to teach Lally enough Serbian to survive – the names of foods in the local market, the routes of local buses, everyday expressions. Eventually, Lally was able to enroll in language classes, and she became immersed in the local culture until she and her husband moved back to the United States two years later.

“Because someone cared enough to help me learn a new language,” Lally recalls, “I knew that I wanted to help someone else.”

After Lally retired as an office manager at a law firm, she sought training as a literacy tutor for Oakland Literacy Council. Since 2012, she has helped several immigrants learn survival English – and so much more. “I’m truly interested in them achieving their goals and becoming successful in a new society,” she says.

Lally says she receives much more that she gives as a tutor. “The relationships that I’ve made are wonderful,” she says, reaching for her phone to scroll through photos of students with whom she remains friends even after they’ve graduated from the Council’s program. “My students,” she says, “are my kids.”

Since its founding 35 years ago, Oakland Literacy Council has helped more than 10,000 adult learners improve their literacy skills, matching students with tutors who deliver individualized instruction right in their local neighborhood at a time that works for the student. Lally encourages others to volunteer as a tutor. “We can always find a couple hours in a week to help someone else,” she says. After all, literacy puts an adult on the path toward financial security, health, and educational achievement for their children.

Learn more about the Oakland Literacy Council at

Thank you to Bosco Lounge at 22930 Woodward Ave, Ferndale, MI 48220 for sponsoring our “Get Involved” series featuring local nonprofits, clubs, and groups.  Check out a city by city list here. Want to contribute a write up of a group you care about?  Message with your idea.

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