Bringing tutoring to the community

Paul Mayne // Western NewsWestern Social Science student Katie Benitah is one of the directors of Hope for Relief, a Western-based non-profit that provides free tutoring services for London elementary school pupils, both on- and off-campus.

It was 2003 and a small group of Western students got to thinking: how could they, as postsecondary students, give back to younger students needing help with their education? What about tutoring – for free?

With that unselfish yet simple idea, Hope for Relief was created to help local elementary pupils with math, science, geography or other subjects . Today, the non-profit boasts more than 40 Western student tutoring more than 200 pupils across the city.

Social Science student Katie Benitah said she sought out volunteer opportunities when she first arrived on campus and knew the tutoring program would be a great fit.

“I’ve always loved tutoring,” said Benitah, who is one of the directors of Hope for Relief along with Melanie Mincer and Jason Liebovitz.

“I did it as an extracurricular in high school and really enjoyed it and found it fulfilling. When I got to Western, I heard about Hope for Relief and thought it seemed like a really good fit for me.”

Hope for Relief offers off-campus and on-campus tutoring. Off-campus is similar to an afterschool homework help session, where groups of five tutors meet pupils at their schools once a week for an hour. The students offer their services at five London schools.

The on-campus program gives young children the opportunity to receive one-on-one tutoring on Western’s campus, at D.B. Weldon Library or the Allyn and Betty Taylor Library. Hope for Relief pays for parking and transportation expenses incurred by parents bringing their children to campus. This way, Western students who want to be involved, but who don’t have a vehicle, are still able to participate.

Benitah said Hope for Relief continues to receive e-mails from area schools asking to become part of the program; however, their ability to say ‘yes’ is limited by the number of tutors.

Some schools reach out to her as early as August to secure the program for their school.

Tutoring sessions don’t follow a set timetable, rather are run by the tutors based on the needs of the individual student. This relaxed nature of the program allows the student to gain the help they need without the added stress that is often presented in the classroom.

Always looking for additional Western students to be part of the program, Benitah understands it can be intimidating at first. Because each student is different, Hope for Relief makes sure the tutors are innovative, flexible and understanding of every students’ needs.

“You hear the word ‘tutor’ and think ‘I’m not smart enough to tutor’ or ‘I don’t know this (subject) well enough to tutor’, but it’s only grades one to eight and, honestly, anyone can do it and help out. It makes such a difference,” she said. “It’s such a great cause and brings people together. People end up being really close and making really close friends from working together and facing challenges.

“It’s become a huge part of my university experience. I met a ton of new people and made so many connections. I really recommend it to anyone who’s looking to get involved in the Western community.”

To learn more about Hope for Relief and how to become a tutor, visit