This week we hear from a guest blogger, Fiona, who was a UK teacher and took the leap into outreach projects in India, Vietnam and Kenya. Read her story, and learn about why taking trips overseas can enhance your international experience.
When I first volunteered abroad I wondered what I could do to help. I questioned whether you need to be rich to make a difference or if I had any skills to offer. I’ll never be rich, and nor do I aspire to be. But I know I can make people smile (sometimes!) and I know I have the drive to make a change. So 7 years ago, I ventured away from my classroom at a local college and took a group of 15 very nervous but extremely excited students to Kenya! My job role was to organise events, activities and trips that enriched the lives of young people. I couldn’t have found anywhere more perfect than Melon Mission, a school in Nakuru who support 500 destitute children and run solely on charitable contributions and volunteers. This experience was unlike any other, and I began to run trips like this many times a year. I am writing this blog to inspire other teachers to take their students away like I did. Not only is it great for the students, but for you as a teacher too. Here are a few reasons why you should branch away from your school for a week or two.
Show your students what life is like on the other side of the world
Despite the extreme poverty and in some cases, the unimaginable lives some children lead, when they are at school surrounded by people who genuinely love and care for them, they can feel like they are in the happiest place in the world. Hundreds of smiles but hundreds of stories behind them all. My students had never experienced anything outside of their own learning environment and for them to see the reality of the world around them and know that not everyone is fortunate enough to receive a good education, or even have a school to go to, was a real eye-opener for them. It brings them outside of their comfort zone and from personal experience you really see your students grow as young people and start to appreciate what they have back at home!
Inspire your students to make a difference
Something that really stood out to me was seeing how students from the UK thrived whilst being at these underprivileged schools. They grew in confidence and developed an understanding of what the world is really like outside of their own lives. So many people that have taken part in these trips have since gone above and beyond to make a difference. I’m extremely proud to see how my trips to Kenya, India and Vietnam have ignited a passion in the students that go on them, leading to career paths in teaching, charity work and world development.
A case study:
Sophie Plummer, a student from the University of Winchester, is an example of how these trips can have a huge impact on your life.
“After coming back from Kenya, I realised my true passion was teaching. I found it so rewarding seeing the children learning things I had taught them, and seeing their huge smiles from the enjoyment my lessons brought to them. I realised I want to be able to provide children with an education and give them this tool to change the world. I made the brave decision to transfer courses at university. I am now studying primary education and have just completed my first year. I am thoroughly enjoying it.”
There are many inspirational cases like Sophie’s that come out of charity work. For me, it was very clear after my first visit with a group of students that these experiences were truly life affirming for everyone involved.
Improve your own teaching
The projects I’ve been to are completely charity run and do not receive any government funding. The schools are worlds apart from those here in the UK. I’ve learned a great deal about teaching in a totally different environment and culture. With no electricity or technology, it’s a new way of teaching. It has made me realise how much I took for granted when teaching students at home. My lessons became much more active and practical and were not reliant on PowerPoint presentations!
I have recently realised that the experiences I have had working with young people in the UK and abroad, along with my training and qualifications, can be shared with the schools and projects abroad. I am now offering teacher training to the volunteer teachers based at the projects.
The power of travel!
After many years of taking groups of students abroad and visiting projects myself I realised the power of travel, culture and community engagement and how important it is to have these experiences and learn from others. I now run Younique Travel Adventures and organise for groups of students and adults to visit Kenya, India and Vietnam.
Our core aim is supporting community projects within the areas we visit and as well as this we wanted to give people the opportunity to explore the countries they visit with a range of cultural and adventure based activities that enhance the overall experience for everyone that takes part.
It’s safe to say these types of trips are not your average day in a classroom! They take you outside of your comfort zone and challenge you in ways you never thought possible. They make you realise what life is like in other countries and you see everything through the eyes of those who live there. They ignite a spark that will last for years to come. Whether you take a week or two out of your school holidays or you decide to take a group of students for an experience of a lifetime you will learn so much and make memories that will last forever.
My favourite saying is this. “We might not be able to change the world, but we can change someone’s world”
If you are interested in joining Fiona on one of Younique’s trips in 2018 or 2019 then please get in touch. If you would like to request a trip pack for Kenya, India or Vietnam then you can email them, at firstname.lastname@example.org, call on 01793 680545 or go to www.ytauk.com