We caught up with Chantel, who volunteered with Lattitude Global Volunteering UK in Vanuatu in 2010. We asked her about her placement and now, a few years down the line, what she though she learn’t from it as well as how it has benefitted her.
Catching up with an ex volunteer, Chantel Thompson
1. When and where did you go for you Lattitude placement and what did you do?
Vanuatu, January 2010. I was a teacher of a class of 21 a local primary school, on the island of Tanna.
2. Describe briefly your daily/weekly duties.
I was a full time teacher- the day would begin with supervising the children whilst they did their morning duties, which included tidying the classrooms and the playground. Following that it was time for assembly, before a full day of lessons began. I was teaching all subjects, besides P.E. to my class, which included maths, English, science, social sciences, agriculture, drama and music. As well as this I would be relieved one session a day to teach English to the other classes in the school. I also did extra-curricular activities, like a reading recovery programme , performing arts and a netball club. As a teacher I had to attend all staff meetings and do a couple of workshops to share good teaching practice.
3. Why did you decide to volunteer with us in the first place?
Lattitude appeared to offer the best package; for one they serviced Vanuatu, and ultimately it was the fact that they were a non-profit organisation, dedicated to organising long term placements, which would be a help and not a hindrance to the local communities of which they would affect. In addition to this there was the bursary program which made the placement accessible to all.
4. What are you doing at the moment?
Having attained a Masters in comparative education at the Institute of Education in London I am returning to university to complete a PGCE in primary education with a specialism in maths. In between my Masters and PGCE I have been working in a primary school as a support teacher.
5. What skills did you learn or develop during your placement that helps you in your current work?
I learnt/developed an innumerable amount of skills during my place which have been wholly beneficial to my current work. Some of the most important have been independence, resilience, self-sufficiency, adaptability, teaching, lesson planning, budgeting, the ability to cope when technology fails before a lesson, and many more. It’s unbelievable just how much can be learnt from a 6 month stint in a environment so polarised from your own.
6. Do you feel like your volunteering experience helped you to get you where you wanted to be?
Without a doubt! For one I would not be following the career path that I am now on, and that would be a shame, because I love it. In addition to this, since returning from my placement, with a renewed confidence and acceptance of myself, I was able to get every job interview that I went for, although, not every job was suited to me, thus rejected in the end. I remember being told by a potential employer that they love it when people have travelled and have had a good experience, because it is during the time when the candidate recalls their experience that they become at ease and truly express their passion for something in life.
7. What was the most important thing you learnt on your placement?
To truly accept myself, because I am the only me I will ever be, and me is someone that people like/love!
8. How would you describe the balance between work and ‘fun’ while you were volunteering?
Work was fun! Although stressful at times, it was incredibly fun. My aim whilst out there was to make learning fun for my pupils, and we laughed everyday. The experience is whatever you make it, and my partner and I chose to make it fun, whilst at work, and out of work.
9. What were the most challenging/rewarding aspects of your placement?
Most challenging: at times, being the instrument of an education system that was not fully adaptable to the culture.
Most rewarding: the achievements of my children and the gratitude of the community.
10. Would you go back if you had the chance?
In a heartbeat!
11. Would you like to add anything else…..
For anybody thinking of doing a placement with Lattitude, do it! It will create some of the most poignant moments of your life as well as opening up the door of opportunities for you.
“It honestly changed my life, it had a massive impact. People say about those defining moments and it was definitely one!”