When I took an early retirement package last year, the newly won freedom
and independence was very inspiring, and I started doing lots of those
small and big home projects that had been waiting through many years of
work, most of the time travelling. But I felt the urge to do something
more, to find a way to help underprivileged people. Then I found
Openmind Projects on the internet. I contacted them and they were very
understanding and flexible about finding a project that met my wishes.
While volunteering certainly had its challenges, my classes went very
well, from teaching Math to 14 year olds to getting lots of hugs from
kindergarteners. In the end I felt like I made a difference and had the
experience of lifetime!
around home was all great and fine, but after several months of working
by myself, I started to feel an urge to contribute to helping other
people. Sure, one night a week I was doing volunteer teaching in maths
for Swedish high school students, but I still felt I wanted to do more.
Furthermore, with the October, November, December weather being even
more wet and windy than normal in Sweden (i.e. really miserable
weather!), I felt I wanted to go somewhere nice and warm.
googling around I came across Openmind Projects, which sounded a great
organization. I had been to Southeast Asia several times before, so I
knew already that I would love everything, although the volunteer
teaching itself was unknown territory. At the time, I felt rather
insecure about teaching small children. Instead, I felt that I would
would be more in my comfort zone teaching Maths, and thereby English
also of course, to secondary level students (13-15 years old). When I
asked the OMP team about doing this, they were very helpful. The team
suggested that I complement the Maths teaching with English, which
sounded fine to me. In actual fact, I ended up teaching Maths, English
and Social Sciences as well!
class with the 14-year-olds went super, actually! After the first I was
a bit sceptical. I think pretty much all of them got a fair grip on
Pythagoras, but introducing the concepts of statistics and probability
was challenging. They woke up, however, when I started using examples
from betting and gambling! Finding things they were interested in meant
they were more motivated to learn.
secondary level dominated my agenda, I also taught English to primary
level and kindergarten, i.e., to all the kids, from 4-15 years old! For
older students I used basic conversation topics like 'at the restaurant'
or 'showing directions'. My English class became great, with
competition and lots of enthusiasm. I was also asked to come to the
kindergarten where I spent some time with simple vocabulary and ended up
in a great handshaking and hugging event with millions of kids at the
days nothing went according to 'plan', but great it was! There was no
problem filling up the day. Everything was super, and I feel this
experience was extremely rewarding and memorable.
the other hand, I have failed completely in learning Thai - my
vocabulary still consists of two words: Hi and Thank you... Perhaps I
was too lazy in learning Thai, but I think the main reason is that the
languages and sounds are so fundamentally different.
have to be clear, though: teaching doesn't come without challenges! As
long as there is another Thai speaking teacher beside you, mastering at
least some English, team teaching works great. However, very few Thai
teachers master even very basic English - and very few are comfortable
doing team teaching. So, very often you are left by yourself with the
children. Sure, body language and theatre takes you a long way, but
nevertheless things can get a bit out of hand. Then again, I shouldn't
sound negative - the kids are so incredibly adorable and charming. A
truly amazing experience!
the somewhat older students there is very often a large degree of
shyness. In particular, when you meet them after school, most of the
time they absolutely don't dare to talk to you. Nevertheless, I felt
that this shyness gradually decreased during my three weeks there, so if
nothing else, I feel that I made at least a tiny contribution to
breaking down intercultural barriers.
if you want an absolutely unforgettable experience and have the
opportunity to do so, don't hesitate to try volunteer teaching with
Openmind Projects! With the Southeast Asian people being so warm,
friendly and helpful, it is impossible not to love this adventure. And
with the help of some body language, Google Translate and an Open Mind,
it will be a success!
Blog posted from Krabi, Thailand View larger map