Never in a million years did I dream that we would witness the passing of Claire Brown, an incredibly vibrant, brilliant, and youthful woman. Claire Brown was an LCNV volunteer for ten full years, during which she gave her time, her mind, and her passion to our organization in so many ways. I saw her last for lunch on a sunny day in July of 2016, when I told her one last time how much she meant to our organization and how much she had contributed. We stayed in touch after that through her Caring Bridge account.
Claire helped LCNV in many different capacities. She personally tutored Margaret from Ghana, Jee-Un and Dukja from Korea, Zayneb from Ethiopia and Jack from the US. But she also worked as a classroom teacher, a classroom aide, an instructor trainer, a placement advisor for other tutors, and a library liaison. Between September 9, 2006 and June 11, 2016, Claire amassed 1,902 volunteer hours and impacted hundreds of students—students living in linguistic isolation, previously afraid to leave the refuge of their homes because they couldn’t speak the language of the land.
Claire was a perfectionist and an innovator. She never hesitated to challenge convention if she had an idea about how to improve it. When she came to me with a proposal, I asked her to run a pilot study to see if her idea worked. It did, and we publicized the results. Faced with evidence of success, other volunteers followed her lead. Later, when we decided to make major changes to our organization’s structure, we asked Claire to help us revamp the training program for prospective instructors. It would have been hard to accomplish our goals without her participation. I have crystal clear memories of her standing before a room packed with new volunteers on a Saturday morning— a difficult time, at best, to maintain people’s focus. But Claire’s dynamic presence, deep understanding of our learners, and articulate explanations commanded everyone’s attention.
What does it mean to leave a legacy? Can it be quantified in terms of volunteer hours? Does it reside within the lives of adults, newly participating in their communities because they received the gift of English? Or does a legacy defy articulation?
Listen carefully… Can you hear the cacophony of sound beyond the silence? The sound of hundreds of voices, previously voiceless, raised in unison to Claire.
Carole Bausell, Ed.D.
Director of Academic and Student Affairs
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia