After years of research I organised my volunteering placement with a Charity called Lattitude Global Volunteering. They offered the chance to completely immerse myself in a different culture, to really challenge myself and to make a real difference. As I was flying over the South Pacific Ocean in a 5 seater plane, just about to land on a grass runway on an Island small enough to walk across in a day, I remember the nervous excitement of going into the unknown; I just couldn’t wait for the adventure to start! I finally touched down in Port Vila Airport, and, hauling my tattered rucksack off the plane I looked up to the sight of local children greeting us; shouting and singing – wearing torn, scrappy clothes (or nothing at all) beating the ground with sticks and dancing wildly around. It was then I realised these were 6 months of my life that not all the travel books in the world could have prepared me for.
I will always remember my first hour teaching the year 7s,those 20 or so eager, beautiful faces, ready to learn. However, I completely misunderstood the painful shyness of so many of the children, and saw more than one dive like a shot under the desk when asked a question! This certainly made teaching even more of a challenge!
After a few months I had the most amazing morale boost! Whilst walking through the market a little old lady came beaming up to me, and, grasping my hands, told me how completely and utterly thankful she was for having me as the French teacher for her little boy – Watson.
I heard how, everyday, Watson had walked home and then opened up his books again with his younger brother, who they could not afford to send to school, and passed on – from his grubby French book, everything I had taught in that days lesson. At that moment 2 timid looking boys were ushered out from behind their mother, I smiled at Watson and bent down beside the smaller one I didn’t recognise. ‘Ca Va?’ I asked, a kick in the shins from his older brother nudged this little shoeless child who had never stepped foot inside a classroom to gaze up at me, his round, hazelnut eyes fixing on mine as he replied ‘Ca Va bien merci’ another nudging kick from Watson and he remembered his French manners – ‘etvous?’.
It was like my whole insides were alight! I was beaming for at least a week after! This little old lady and her 2 boys had given me the most incredible feeling imaginable; I went to lessons so much more confident of my abilities. Day by day I understood more about how they learnt, and about the culture itself, eventually my teaching became almost natural.
The months following are such a blur – my year 3s racing up to me every day, taking my bag for me and clinging onto my hands, begging me to stay with them all day. On the especially hot days my year 7s and I would all leap outside and play games, however my attempts to teach sport of any kind soon turned around to them teaching me sport, I have never seen so many athletic eager sports people!
Those months really do hold so many stories, memories and images, there is just so much to say about my 6 months on the other side of the world, it made me question everything I’ve ever known, open my eyes to a life I’d never even known existed and made me more emotional than ever before!