I’ve been working for several weeks now alongside 15 volunteers from at least 10 different countries, most of them in their late teens and early twenties. I’m amazed by their dedication to the project. I missed classes yesterday due to a stomach bug and felt guilty about it, but grateful for the chance to recover. Since I’ve been here, I haven’t seen any of the younger volunteers take time off. They are passionate about working with the students and don’t want to let them down. On weekend trips, they look forward to seeing the kids again on Monday morning. They work collaboratively and seek out feedback in order to constantly improve their lessons. Some are here for as short as two weeks, while others are here for up to a year. Either way, their passion and dedication are the same.
Yes, this work is rewarding, but it is hard work. The more I thought about what the volunteers here do, the more I realized how different they are than what most might expect from people their age. I also realized that some certified teachers would balk at some of the responsibilities on this list. Keep in mind that the volunteers are not getting paid! Here’s some of what the volunteers do.
- Work collaboratively to plan lessons for classes that typically have students from ages 5-12. Some students can read, some can’t. Some days there may be five students who show up, while other days there are 25. The lessons must be engaging, relevant and meet the needs of all the various learners in the class.
- Prepare all the materials needed for each class such as worksheets, flash cards, drawings, photocopies, etc.
- Carry supplies to every class, every day. The Kindles, laptops, games, paper, markers, scissors, tape, etc. must be carried to class since there is little or no storage at each location. The volunteers also prepare and carry the snack along with the bowls, spoons and cups for each class.
- Set up the furniture for each class. Our locations are rented and/or used by other groups, so we always have to move tables and chairs to set up the classroom.
- Work as a team to teach each class. Be prepared to work with different volunteers and students every day, and be flexible!
- Teach additional classes, such as the Kindergarten class, Teen class, Adult class and Computer class. Teach up to three classes a day. Each class is 90-120 minutes long.
- Attend staff meetings two or three times a week.
- Meet 30 minutes prior to each class to review the plans, and for 15 minutes after each class to discuss and record how things went.
- Develop behavior plans for each class, explain it to the students and enforce it.
- Perform additional duties such as helping out with maintenance, writing social media posts about the program, recruiting new students, making flyers and posters, and more.
- Conduct themselves as professionals at all times. El Porvenir is a small community and the volunteers are expected to live in a way that will not reflect poorly on the program. You will not see these young people drinking at the local bars or staying out past 9 or 10 during the week.
- Do all of this in the intense heat and humidity and with limited access to resources.
So, why do they do it? I think you already know the answer, but I will try to get them to elaborate on why they are here for a future post.