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Never give up! Overcoming volunteer headaches. By Kathy from Canada


Kathy stayed in Nong Khai for two months, teaching at Arunrangsee School. Her volunteering didn't get off to the best start when she found her pupils difficult to manage. Here she talks about how, together with the Openmind Projects staff, she was able to overcome this hurdle and make her experience positive.

I arrived in Nong Khai and took part in the Volunteer Training at the OMP Training Center.  The next week I began my volunteer position at a local school, teaching English to classes of energetic 7, 8, 9 and 10 year olds.  OMP’s Volunteer Coordinator, Golf, accompanied me on the first day and was a great assistance in the classroom.  I began teaching on my own the next day, and it took the first week to assess their English skills.

However, I found that my lack of ability to speak Thai made managing the classes almost impossible.  I became quite frustrated because I knew I could make a contribution to the children’s learning, but needed them to be fully involved.  I didn’t want to give up.... this school has no English teacher and I had come to Thailand to make a difference, albeit a small one.

So I went into the OMP Centre and spoke to Sven, Toto, Golf and Joiy.  I was very impressed with their reaction – our discussion concluded that we should not just assume that for me the situation was unworkable, but that we should work together with the school to try to find a solution that would both benefit these children and allow me to continue to have a positive volunteer experience here.

We met with the Director of the school the next morning, with Toto, Golf and I attending, and we came to a consensus that we should try a new approach.  Instead of one hour lessons with the entire class, we would divide them each into 2 groups, and I would conduct my lessons outside of their classrooms, a half hour for each group.

The 7’s teacher divided up the classes.  Learning by doing - we tried this new approach out right away on the class of 8 year olds and I found it much easier to keep them focused on the lesson.  I also had the OMP trainees team teaching with me, and this was a great help as they were able to assist with explanations of the work.

I also changed the focus of the classes to the children’s personal experience, rather than other topics like colours, animals, etc.  Each week we did a new unit – their family, what they would be when they grew up, their activities at home and their likes and dislikes – having them draw pages for a book that they can talk about.  Their enthusiasm went up and they focused a lot better on learning the vocabulary.

I am so glad OMP was able to work with me so that I could continue with my volunteer experience.  I commend the staff at Openmind Projects for their approach to my situation.  This organization showed me that they really strive to make a difference in the projects they support, and truly care about their volunteers.

Blog posted from Arun Rangsi Kindergarten, Pho Chai, Mueang Nong Khai District, Nong Khai 43000, Thailand View larger map

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