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National Volunteer Month: Meet Margaret, Volunteer Management VISTA

All of CIANA’s volunteers contribute in numerous ways to the day-to-day functions of our direct services and programs for immigrants. From time to time, however, the dedication of some of our volunteers drives them to become a part of our team. Take, for instance, Margaret Sampson, a former ESL instructor who joined CIANA full time in March as our newest AmeriCorps VISTA.

Margaret now oversees CIANA’s Volunteer Management, helping to recruit, train, and supervise all of the dozens of volunteers across CIANA’s various departments. Margaret also assists with Communications, helping CIANA to maintain a digital presence on social media and through visual advertising and marketing. She is spending the year with us through the AmeriCorps Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA) program, which places members at host locations throughout the country to increase capacity building efforts, coordinated by the New York Immigration Coalition.

In celebration of National Volunteer Month, which falls every April, we invite you to learn more about Margaret, her service at CIANA, and what has drawn her to CIANA time and time again.


What initially drew you to teach English at CIANA?

I have always been interested in languages and I was drawn to teaching ESL to better understand language acquisition. Additionally I had spent several years living overseas where I met many people who were very patient with me and generous with their time as I was learning the language. This is one of the reasons I felt inspired to volunteer to teach English.

What was your experience like teaching English to a diverse group of immigrant adults?

Working with the students was really interesting and rewarding. It is incredibly satisfying to see the students' growth of understanding over the course of a session.

What challenges did you have teaching virtually to students who speak a mix of different languages?

It was sometimes a challenge to find visual strategies to communicate meaning that would be universal across all of the languages spoken by the students. I would often try to demonstrate a concept in multiple ways.

How do you balance the need to learn English as an immigrant while also maintaining one’s native language and cultural heritage?

This makes me think of the many parents who were students in my classes, as well as friends of mine who grew up as the children of immigrants. I think that it is important for children to learn their families’ language of origin. Studies have shown that there are many developmental and intellectual benefits for children who grow up bilingual. I also believe more languages being spoken within a society broadens our perspective and enriches our lives.

How did you decide to stay on at CIANA as a full-time VISTA?

I was initially drawn to offer to volunteer at CIANA because I believe in the mission of the organization and the work that they are doing, so when the opportunity to become more involved came along I was thrilled to take it.

Why are volunteers so important when it comes to working with immigrant communities?

In my current position as volunteer coordinator, I have interviewed and brought into the organization many people who are either immigrants themselves or the children of immigrants and so I think they bring a particular insight and understanding to the challenges that some of our clients are facing.

What is important to look for in a potential volunteer who wants to work at an organization like CIANA?

I think the things that make a person a good volunteer is a shared belief in CIANA‘s mission and an understanding of how impactful the work we are doing can be on someone’s life. I think that this gives the volunteers the incentive to show up consistently for the clients and to give it their all.

What impact has volunteering at CIANA had on you and what impact do you hope you have left on your students?

I feel like I learned a lot about the teaching process. Teaching ESL at CIANA was a great way to test out my ideas and develop effective strategies for teaching ESL. I hope that I was able to give my students practical tools for navigating English and useful vocabulary as they begin their journey toward mastering language.


We are grateful for Margaret’s dedication not only to her students, but to helping enhance CIANA’s volunteer capacity overall. Thank you Margaret!


Explore current volunteer opportunities at CIANA at

If you have any questions, call us at (718) 545-4040 or send an email to Margaret!


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