Rita is a 53 year old grandmother. She worked in a factory until her hand got stuck in a machine, which left her dependent on social services. Until a year ago, she couldn’t read. She spent most of her days at home. She didn’t go out much as she felt anxious and embarrassed. She couldn’t use the internet, she was dependent on others for daily tasks such as paying bills, reading her mail, and so on. She was socially isolated. Last year she was matched with one of our tutors, Jim, a former Dean of Lowell University, who after his retirement wanted to give back. He really pushed her and she gave it her all. After 5 months, she had read 5 books and her tutor offered her theater tickets if she would read the play first. It was difficult for her, but she did it. This was her first time ever in a theater. He then gave her tickets to a museum with an assignment. This was her first time in a museum. Although extremely nervous and anxious, she came to our potluck, and wow, was she proud of the dish she brought, because she followed a recipe! After Christmas she reported that the whole family was shocked to find out that she could read the trivia cards and for the first ever, she participated in family games and was able to read to her grandchildren. As Rita says: my tutor not only taught me how to read, he opened my world!

The experience also had an effect on Jim, he said: After retirement, I felt I didn’t matter anymore. But Rita gave me purpose again, I never expected I would get so much out of becoming a tutor.