Quad Cities | Retired teacher finds passion in volunteering

ROCK ISLAND — When people retire from their full-time job, some find doors open for them that they didn’t know existed.

Sonja Knudsen is one of those, calling herself a “Jenny-come-lately” to the world of volunteering.

Since retiring from Augustana College where she was a foreign language instructor, Ms. Knudsen has kept extremely busy volunteering her time locally as well as internationally.

“I really wish I had gotten involved earlier; I came to it a lot later than a lot of people,” said Ms. Knudsen, shying away from personal attention for her volunteer work. “It’s so enriching and fulfilling.”

Locally, Ms. Knudsen’s efforts are centered on World Relief, an international resettlement agency — with an office in Moline — that helps refugees get started in a new country.

“As a volunteer, I have done a variety of things — primarily taking clients to appointments, or do some bus training, teach them how to take the bus for work and to school,” she said. “I’ve also been involved in setting up apartments and helping in the office.

“I’ve gotten to know some wonderful people from different cultures, and I also have gotten to know some very committed people who work as volunteers and staff people at the World Relief office.”

Through other volunteer ventures, she has had a chance to travel. She has been to Mississippi and Texas to help in hurricane relief. She has traveled abroad to Tanzania, Romania and India as part of the Global Volunteers program.

In those stops, she said she put her background as a teacher to good use.

“I guess that’s OK,” she said with a laugh. “I got hooked on one of my first trips. I had such a wonderful experience in Tanzania. It was heartwarming, eye-opening and enriching.”

She said she learns just as much from her experiences as she passes on.

“The travel abroad has been a terrific experience, and I will have to also say that it’s been fun to travel, too,” said Knudsen, who traveled extensively for pleasure and through programs at Augie.

“I learn from the people I’m with and also learn from the other volunteers. … It’s been heartwarming and educational to be with other volunteers.”

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