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  • Writer's pictureNatasha at Jacari

Former volunteer and pupil reconnect

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

Catherine Howarth volunteered for Jacari and tutored Sukhwinder Dhirej in the mid 1990s. They recently reconnected on LinkedIn and are in touch again. We spoke to both Catherine and Sukhwinder about their Jacari experience.

Sukhwinder's story

Sukhwinder was matched to a Jacari tutor, Catherine, when he was at middle school in Oxford as he was getting behind with his school work. English was his first language, but he also spoke Punjabi at home. Catherine helped him with English, Maths, Geography and other school work. She also took him on outings in Oxford, including trips to the cinema, picnics in the park and kids’ parties organised by Jacari.

One particular memory Sukhwinder has is Catherine taking him on a birthday outing to Pizza Hut. She also gave him a board game for his birthday which they had previously played together and he loved. This was a treasured gift!

Sukhwinder thinks having the human connection with Catherine really helped him. She got to know him as a person and helped him with more than just with school work, sharing her values with him, such as to be respectful and to be confident and speak up.

He wasn’t encouraged at school, and was told he would never go anywhere, but he feels Catherine’s support started something for him. Although he didn’t do well in his exams, he got a place at Wolverhampton University to study Business Management. After that, he went on to do a Masters in HR. After doing various temporary jobs he got his first breakthrough with a job working for the Oxfordshire NHS Trust in their HR department. This role really motivated Sukhwinder and gave him a drive to succeed. He even won a staff recognition award which he received at a ceremony in Oxford’s Town Hall. He is extremely proud of this achievement and his ongoing career with the NHS, as well as becoming a home-owner for the first time. Perhaps one area where Catherine’s influence can still be seen is Sukhwinder’s desire to continue learning - he recently took an IT course and is learning French.

Catherine's story

Sukhwinder was 10 years old when Catherine started tutoring him while she was studying at Oxford University. He lived in the Cowley area of Oxford with his mum, dad and big brother. Catherine got to know Sukhwinder’s family well and became very close to them, often going to their house for dinner. Catherine remembers having good chats with Sukhwinder’s father after their lessons were done, not least about union organising in the car plant, where he worked.

She told us that getting to know a family in Oxford whose lives were very different from hers was one of the best things to happen to her at Oxford. Alongside vivid memories of Sukhwinder’s home and the chats she had with his dad, she has a happy memory of a boat trip on the Thames organised by the Jacari committee for the volunteers and their pupils. A great day out!

Catherine told us "I’m so happy to hear that Jacari is still going strong! I’ve no doubt those weekly trips up to Cowley were at least as educational for me as they were for Sukhwinder."

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