Elastic believes in giving back, both by supporting the communities in which we live and work, and recognizing that participating in these activities can inspire and enrich our lives in unexpected ways. That’s why we offer our Elasticians volunteer time off (VTO) to foster a culture of caring.
The Helper Node blog series shines a light on the inspiring ways our Elasticians use their volunteer hours to help their community and the world at large. In this edition of the Helper Node series we meet Imma Valls, who volunteers her time helping kids learn the joy of reading.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, what do you do at Elastic?
Imma Valls: My name is Imma Valls and I’m an engineering consultant at Elastic. I’m based out of Barcelona and have been at Elastic for 9 months.
How do you use your VTO?
Imma: There is a program in my region in Spain (Catalonia) called LECXIT that mentors kids between ages eight and twelve who have difficulties reading. Schools and libraries throughout the region participate in this program and organize it on their premises.
I have been volunteering with LECXIT for a couple of years at a local library, not far from where I live. They assign me a kid every school year, and I do weekly one-hour sessions with them. Usually from October to June. This is my third year with the program.
Tell me about how you became involved with this organization?
Imma: Well, I was looking to volunteer in general. One of my best friends, David, is involved in a myriad of causes and I asked him to forward me anything I might find of interest. When he sent me the LECXIT opportunity, I instantly knew this was it. I’ve always loved reading. I even think it saved my life as a kid, being able to fly anywhere with a book. So I knew I would love teaching kids the same joy.
How did you prepare for being a tutor?
Imma: In the beginning, I didn’t know whether I would be an effective reading mentor. I’d never tutored before, and I was a little worried. Thankfully, LECXIT gave us a few hours training before I was allowed to begin with a pupil. Regardless of my doubts, the kids always make it so easy. LECXIT attracts kids that are super cool and willing to collaborate, even if they might not love reading. And when they arrive on time each session, or when they smile at you or ask you if you are coming back next Friday, it feels like a gift.
How do you come up with your lessons?
Imma: During the week I try to think of what to do during the session. That could be building a Lego robot that helps teach reading through a set of instructions, or coding a game with Scratch. Or, I will prepare reading or writing materials. I look for resources and ideas everywhere I can. One of my favorites activities I do with the kids is using a set of instructions they have to read to make an origami jumping frog or chattering teeth.
What does your day look like when volunteering at the library?
Imma: I go to the local library on Friday afternoon, at 16:30. Once we settle in, I propose a few activities to my pupil and let him choose what he’d enjoy doing most. I work on the activities with him over the course of an hour. We try to have fun. I then ask him what he wants to do next week, and what interests him the most to end the session so I can find activities he might enjoy for the following weeks. And that’s that!
My best friend and I tutor on the same day. When one of us can’t make it, we’ll cover for one another. So sometimes, we have to come up with activities for a session with two kids.
Were there any challenges or roadblocks for you being involved with LECXIT?
Imma: When I was at my old company it was difficult to find a time slot, although Friday afternoons usually worked. Elastic makes it even easier to fit this into my schedule — they’re flexible about when you can take your volunteer time. Being a consultant, I usually travel on Sundays. The main thing I had to adapt to was not being able to take a long weekend anymore, since Friday afternoons I have to be in Barcelona for volunteering.
What kind of impact do you believe your volunteer time has on these kids?
Imma: My impact, hopefully, is that the kids feel that there’s someone there for them every Friday. That a person cares enough to prepare activities for them. Also, letting them choose what they like to do and what they don’t, hopefully, makes them feel a little more like grown-ups and improves their self-esteem. And of course, after a year, the kids will read better. If I’m lucky, they’ll also discover what kind of reading they might like for the future, so they keep reading.
To be honest, volunteering might have more of an impact on me than on the kids. I don’t have children, and it’s a nice opportunity to help a kid for a few months. Every week I look forward to it. Even when I’m tired from the week’s work, I know I’ll feel full of energy after the session. And it’s a nice break that marks the beginning of the weekend. It helps a great deal to disconnect from your daily worries and start the weekend with renewed energy.
Any last thoughts?
Imma: It’s great that Elastic supports our VTO. I volunteered with the same organization before joining Elastic, but it was a little more difficult to make the time in my previous company. I also love that Elastic is open to us doing such a variety of volunteering activities. The things that matter to each individual, what we value, is so different. There is a volunteering activity for everyone—you just have to keep looking for the right match. Elastic gives us that freedom.
Interested in joining Elastic? Learn more about our teams and career opportunities in Spain (and distributed) and apply today.