Twenty years ago, when Tammy Barry moved from New Jersey to Westport, her neighbor — a nun — suggested she get involved with Mercy Learning Center.
The Bridgeport organization — providing literacy and life skills training to low-income women — was run by nuns.
Today it’s a secular non-profit. It serves — and changes the lives — of hundreds of women a year.
Barry has been intimately involved since she moved here. She now runs Mercy’s mother/child reading program. After each session — which includes singing and parent education — everyone goes home with a new copy of the book they’ve read.
With her 3 children grown and graduated from Staples High School, Berry also tutors English and life skills.
Barry calls her group — 5 native Spanish and Portuguese speakers, in their 30s through 50s — “incredible. I love them. They have such energy, and are so eager to learn. They ask great questions, and help each other out so well.”
A 53-year-old gets up at 5:30 every morning, to get her kids ready for school. She works 5 days a week — then goes to Mercy, working on her GED.
“I’d be exhausted,” Barry says. “But she’s so happy to be there. She’s a role model for all of us.”
All of the women, Barry says, are “driven, grateful, and always smiling.”
Mercy Learning Center is wonderful. It fills a gaping need, just a few miles from Westport.
But with over 100 women on the waiting list, it needs more volunteers.
“You don’t need to be a teacher,” Barry explains. “The curriculum tells you exactly what to do. You don’t have to speak a 2nd language, either.”
Tutors come from all over Fairfield County. They’re all ages — from retirees to young people who leave work early, or go in late.
Tutor coordinators and a curriculum manager help volunteers who have questions or concerns.
Twenty years after she started volunteering at Mercy Learning Center, Tammy Barry is more committed than ever.
Now she wants you to commit to Mercy too.
(For more information or to volunteer, contact Lynn Gabriel or Erica Hoffman: 203-334-6699; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com)