Volunteer with the YWCA Berkeley/Oakland English in Action Program

Through the YWCA Berkeley/Oakland English in Action (EIA) program, Berkeley community members and international visitors create mutually educational mentorships and friendships. This past fall, the program gained a new director, Elly Margulis, a Bay Area resident that started volunteering with the EIA program in 2009. Since then, Elly has had 10 different EIA partners, a few of which she still keeps in touch although they have returned to their respective international residences. The purpose of the EIA is to foster these types of partnerships, continually matching community volunteers with visitors based on availability, interests, and whatever else the program members seek from the experience.


On Tuesdays, Ann Healy, an EIA volunteer, holds a group meeting reserved for mothers and young children. The Tuesday group is a time for mothers to share their experiences about the transition into Berkeley culture and how it differs from their home country. This group is one of several specialized meetings times reserved for different types of international visitors. Other groups include groups for women and a group for advanced English speakers. The mother’s group provides a space for women of different nationalities to discuss child rearing in an American context, among other topics chosen by the group, while providing a space for their children to play and interact.

Individual volunteers arrange one-on-one meeting times with their partners to discuss anything from national customs to Berkeley eateries. Partners come from all over the world, ranging nationally from Argentina to Vietnam. Michael, a multilingual EIA volunteer, meets with Paula, a visiting scholar from Spain. Paula, a researching architect, enjoys discussing the differences between the Berkeley and Spanish landscape. She comments on the use of wood in Berkeley, a departure from the abundant use of brick in Spanish architecture. Together, she and Michael work to improve Paula’s English skills through conversations related to their mutual interests in architecture and language, among other things.

The English in Action program purposefully aids in the at times difficult cultural transition to the Bay Area. Whether it be exploring San Francisco’s museums or getting together for a coffee chat, EIA program members appreciate the opportunity to reserve time for the exchange of ideas, advice, and culture.