Having lived in a centre for street children in Malawi for seven months, and then three months doing community projects in India, I’d say I have had quite a lot of volunteering experience.
Through those experiences I made some lifelong friends, met some amazing children who, though very young, had huge hearts and wonderful personalities. I enjoyed my time so much that I’ve visited Malawi with my parents since and am going again with my brother in a month’s time.
Yet I have never been able to master the art of standing in front of a classroom full of children, with different age ranges, levels of English and practically no resources (never mind that some of the children had never even been in a classroom before!). Most of the time I’d feel quite out of my depth, never really telling if I’d actually taught anything well or if they understood what I was saying. Even the training I had received from both volunteer organisations couldn’t help me once my nerves kicked in, or when I was actually face to face with a group.
Last summer, while in India, I actually went out and bought the only whiteboard I could find, just to help have some sort of visual aid while teaching. It was too big, rolled up every few minutes and I had nothing to connect the whiteboard to the wall. The books in the classroom were too advanced – even we English volunteers couldn’t understand them. And although this was my second try at volunteering, I just didn’t understand how other volunteers worked around it.
As it turns out, they didn’t. I found that every other volunteer I talked to had the same problem. They too found it overwhelming and found it hard to really make a difference when we couldn’t even communicate with the people we were teaching because of language barriers. We’re not superheroes and each project and place has its own challenges.
So I started brainstorming, sketching ideas and speaking to my parents on the phone as they did research over the internet back at home.
Then we came up with TripKits.
Lightweight packs, they provide adaptable resources to support the volunteer while they’re face to face with the class. They have flashcards, counters, dice, an activity book with lots of ideas and games and, most importantly, a whiteboard!
So anyone who is facing the same situation as me can now face their classes with confidence and the resources they need to plan, deliver and make a difference.
We’re making teachers out of travellers…