Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with GVI in Laos?
Bob: This is the second time I actually volunteered on this project. Last summer I went for three weeks and this year I was there for six weeks. I am a science teacher and have done various Earthwatch projects and have been a TREC teacher and a Teacher at Sea. I was looking for something a little different as a volunteer experience and was surfing the net and found the GVI Laos trip, which looked very interesting. So I signed up and went and enjoyed every minute of it. This year I talked one of the colleagues I teach with to volunteer with me. The experience was even better as I saw the improvement in many of my students English skills.
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Bob: My day usually started around 6:45am, getting breakfast out in front of the guesthouse and meeting up with other volunteers. I would then go to the school I was assigned to teach in until around 9:30 to 10:00. Every week the schedule changed, but usually I was at a school in the morning with about 25 students that had intermediate English skills. I worked with a Lao teacher in this class and part of the fun was the interactions I had with the teacher and the students.
For three weeks, I taught a class of novice monks that were absolute beginners from 8:30-10:30. After that class was done, lesson planning was usually done between 11:00 and 2:00 with a break for lunch, then I would take care of any chores and my next classes would usually be around 4:00 at another school. Some days I would be the lead teacher in the class and other days I might just help the Lao teacher with pronunciation.
At about 7:00pm I was picked up by a tuk tuk (taxi) and would go up to Wat Pasa Viet temple and teach English to the novice monks until about 8:10. We would often stay longer and chat with the novices. Then I would go get some dinner around 8:30 and be back at the guesthouse by 11:00pm.
How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?
Bob: After participating in this project the second time, I am hooked. I have had some ongoing fundraising activities at school to benefit this program. I have made connections with some different schools, temples and NGO's and have started creating materials for my next summer in Luang Prabang already.
Personally, I feel that I am giving back and making a huge difference in some young peoples lives and hopefully helping them break out of a cycle of poverty. Professionally, I think whenever you teach in areas outside your comfort zone it makes you a better teacher and some of the skills learned in Laos I am bringing back to the classroom in the US. I also bring back to my classroom stories of experiences from other countries to give them a perspective of what it is like in other places.