I had the opportunity to go to the small English school of Pablo Nogues several times, accompanied by the volunteers that teach English in the school, Chealsea, Samara and Sophie, because I wanted to know a little bit more about their experience, their feelings and their expectations.
What was particularly interesting was that at this time they were all living different steps of their pathway, as Sophie was only starting her first week, Samara was experiencing her last one and it was exactly half of Chelsea's time working for Voluntario Global. If the travel by subway and train to the school is a little bit long according to them, it was the perfect moment for me to interview them!
Hopefully, these three volunteers had a lot of things to share with me, starting with their own personal experience and their reasons for coming here and to be part of the Voluntario Global adventure. I started talking with Samara, from England, and Sophie, from Australia, because they shared a similar path as they both decided to travel and discover Argentina and South America. They saw this volunteering project as a way not only to enjoy and receive but also to give back to the community. This program was also a way for them to discover a new city and a new culture while working with children and learning Spanish.
I also spoke with Chelsea, a young Scottish girl who is studying at the University to become an English teacher and is experiencing this volunteering program as her first real professional experience.
The common thread of all the interviews was the pleasure to teach English to children that are enthusiastic and who show them everyday how much they really want to be there and learn. They also indicated that the organization of the school is based on older students teaching English to the younger, so the help of native speakers is really worthy for them, as they also still have to learn a lot. If this part of the volunteering job is at first surprising, it is also why the volunteers feel useful.
Indeed, the teenaged teachers often ask them for help with pronunciation or grammar rules, so the volunteers actually feel like they assist them and they are part of a quality and rich teaching which mixes up the experience of native speaker and the relationship between students and the teenaged teachers who know them, understand them and are able to take control of the class while being so young. The volunteers also run some classes, mainly with the older students that are planning to take international exams and need a specific teaching only proper teachers or native speakers can give them.
These three volunteers also made me understand the impact they can have on the community and what they can learn from this volunteering experience. They feel helpful and have a main purpose to share and teach new things, what they definitely do when I see the children's admiring eyes and hear them saying how much they would like to be like them later and have to opportunity to travel and to volunteer as well.
The volunteers are examples for these young children, and their main aim is to have an impact on them so they want to continue on studying and dreaming.
However, the sharing isn't only in one way. Indeed, as Sophie said, this experience is immensely challenging and volunteers usually learn great lessons from it. While working at the English school, Sophie is expecting to improve her Spanish and to develop new skills, what Samara did because she explained to me that not speaking Spanish shouldn't be seen only as a barrier, it can also be the opportunity to find new ways to communicate, what is inspiring and sometimes also really funny! Moreover, Chelsea added that it was a way for them to improve their skills, such as getting more confident while talking to an audience and being patient.
I think they all gave me a good summary of what being a volunteer means and how much it is worth while, for the community and for themselves, as this experience is both beneficial and rewarding.