Sophie Dear volunteered as a tutor with Jacari in 2004 and was matched to a primary school pupil, Madeeha, and tutored her for nearly 4 years. After Sophie left Oxford, she kept in contact with Madeeha and they have even managed to meet up occasionally. We asked Sophie and Madeeha to share their memories of Jacari tuition.
When did you volunteer with Jacari and how long did you volunteer for?
I volunteered with Jacari from 2004 to 2009. I taught a young boy initially but his family moved away and I started teaching Madeeha later in 2004, and then would also teach her younger sister, Varisha, towards the end of my time with the family.
What is your first memory of meeting Madeeha?
My first memory of meeting Madeeha is not very clear, but I remember her family being very warm and welcoming. Madeeha was quite shy and quiet, and I remember Varisha (who was only a toddler) being very noisy in contrast!
What kind of activities did you do with Madeeha?
Madeeha may remember differently but I think we did quite a lot of word games to practise spelling and writing. We read books together and I remember Madeeha doing some really impressive drawings.
Can you describe one particular memory of your time volunteering as Madeeha’s tutor?
I recall one time when I took Madeeha and Varisha out for the day and showed them around my college (Worcester) and we fed the ducks together. We also went to see a pantomime together and I really felt anxious about the responsibility of getting them home safely and making sure they had a good time.
What impact do you think your tutoring had?
At the time I didn’t think my tutoring was having much impact as Madeeha was always very bright and capable and didn’t seem to need my help. However, I enjoyed talking to her about what I was doing in my medical training and telling her about the workings of Oxford University and I hope it was helpful for her to see another side of Oxford and to have some sort of idea about what options there were for higher education.
For me, it was really positive to have time outside the “Oxford bubble” with a real family and it gave me a perspective on my studies, which I wouldn’t have had had I just stayed within the University. The regular commitment and responsibility of seeing Madeeha and her family was helpful for me and I really appreciated how the family were so welcoming and I enjoyed spending time with people who weren’t students or academics!
How have you stayed in contact with each other since you finished tutoring?
We have stayed in touch and attempted a meet up recently (rained off!) and I saw Madeeha for ice cream a few years ago and was very pleased to hear that she intended to become Prime Minister. Knowing her determination, I’ve no doubt that she could achieve that (if she still wants to!).
Do you remember how Sophie became your tutor?
I believe my mother found a Jacari leaflet at an Islamic Centre at Manzil Way. She had been looking for a general tutor for me for a while and contacted Jacari and got matched with Sophie.
What is your first memory of meeting Sophie?
I can’t actually remember my first time meeting Sophie. She was a large part of my childhood, and I always looked forward to seeing her every week. So in a way, from my memory, it seemed as if Sophie was always there.
How did Sophie help you with your English and with school work?
My mum and dad subscribed to an Australian English and Maths Education program that provided learning DVD’s and exercise books. I would watch the DVD’s on my own but Sophie would help me with the exercise books. We would also read together and do fun arts and crafts.
What kind of activities did you do together?
At the time, Sophie was doing her medical degree at Oxford and had access to the colleges. She would take me to different colleges and even programs held for children. I actually met her future husband at one of them.
A fun story would be that I received a copy of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll for Christmas, and Sophie took me to Merton College to see the inspiration behind it. Years later I returned to Merton for a Law Day Experience and recalled memories of Sophie taking me there when I was young.
What impact do you think the tutoring had on you?
Sophie is one of a kind in terms of tutors. She was more than a tutor, she was a friend who had a great and wonderful impact on my childhood. Some of my happiest memories were with her. And actually quite funny. Sometimes I wouldn’t want to learn but Sophie would threaten to leave and I never wanted her to go so I would sit down with her. I think the best part of learning with Sophie is that I would want to learn just to spend time with her. She made learning fun and actually I got Gold exam certificates from that Australian learning program because of it. She taught me that learning could be fun and didn’t need to be just boring old memorisation. That lesson has helped me even now.
What are you doing now?
After I finished A Levels, I decided to take an education break and enter into the working world. I started in retail and ended up as an Account Executive at British Gas within 3 years. After some time, I decided that now would be a good time to go to university. I applied and accepted a place at Durham to read law. The dream would be to become a barrister specialising in Criminal law. I have just finished my first year at Durham and am about to start my second.
Have you stayed in contact with each other since you finished tutoring?
After Sophie finished tutoring me, we remained in contact and would meet up occasionally. My mother, little sister and I attended her engagement party. After that, we lost contact for several years but I messaged her on Facebook and we met up for an ice cream at G&D’s (as one does in Oxford), and we discussed what has happened since we last saw each other. Sophie is now a Doctor and has two young children. And with me away for most of the year, it is difficult to meet up. She is rightfully busy and I couldn’t be happier for her.