Monday, August 2, 2010

Volunteer work allocation

My work allocation
Hi, my name is Stephen Howard and over the coming months, I would like to share on behalf of the amazing volunteers to give up their time to participate in building the Laos community program with GVI, These are our stories, comments welcome and enjoy.
After a beautiful afternoon on the Mekong and visiting villages and becoming acquainted with the new and existing volunteers, it is down to work. The real work started the Monday after I arrived.
It is the first Sunday evening of the new rotation, which included me. The schedule will be discussed with all volunteers at the Guest House. GVI tries to ensure all volunteers stay in the same location. We are staying at a fabulous little guest house called “Cold River”, it’s on the banks of the Nam Kan river that flows into the Mekong just around the bend. The family are so beautiful and kind they sit with us all the time in the common area outside the main door with cute broken and sometimes non-existent English. It has 10 rooms and this program allows 10 volunteers to participate at any time here in Laos. The minimum rotation is two weeks. Some people stay longer up to a month; I am planning on 3 months for starters.
Once the scd was agreed, we now know for the next 2 weeks our assignments. My teaching assignments are now, in the morning I teach Unexploded Ordinance (UXO) team, (I am ex Military and served with the United Nations so loving my involvement there) coincidently this initiative is funded by the Australian federal Government. An estimated 78 million cluster bombs were dropped across Laos pre the 1975 communist war by the west. To date UXO have been trained and guided by experts from around the world to find the cluster bombs that did not ignite on contact with the ground. Approximately 30 million have been found and destroyed. At least one person dies everyday in Laos from stepping on an unexploded cluster bomb. The real difference is the last few years with much assistance from the international community. It seems these people have much work to do yet. I go there 4 days a week and face fantastic happy people every day I am there. It makes me smile about the structure of the class, 5 maybe 10 people show up. Some people know some English, some people has no English. They range from 16 – 56 in age, some bring their nephews or nieces or aunties etc etc. I like to think of my time here as Plan: “Go with the flow” because you never know what is going to happen each day. This makes this assignment even more exciting and presents new and interesting situations each day / week.
My next assignment is teaching at Monk school during the day. The students are novice Monks. Novices enter the temple at a young age and stay until late teenage years. The closest analygy I can use is boarding school. Not all novices go onto become Monks because they choose not to. The immense pleasure and emotion I get from being in these classes is unique for me, I adore teaching, it is my passion and has been since I was instructing in the army. This is another experience of teaching I have not felt before, my time here has immensely helped me reconnect with what teaching is about and how amazing my profession is because it’s not a job to me, it’s a complete way of life. Novices and Monks are so intelligent at a level I’m only starting to understand after nearly a month here. (More about what happens in the classroom in a later blog)
Late afternoon, I’m assisting a Laos teacher who teaches English to students at a college that was set up by a very professional gentleman from Germany. My / our role is to read the curriculum they are studying and ensure they are repeating with the correct pronunciation.
My last assignment of the day is in a school just opposite the guesthouse. It’s for children aged between 6 – 15. I have completely gone past the student / teacher relationship with them because get help but get attached. My whole day is looking forward to my 5pm – 7pm so I can spend time with them and an amazing co teacher that I’m learning so much from. My college days were adult education, much different from children. My time in India several years ago is helping me with the kids here. There is about 20 / 25 (varies each day) in the class. I am also learning lots about our language, I should be ashamed of the little knowledge I know, however during the day in between classes is prep time and reading about the English language, it is enlightening to realise what I do not know so I can rectify it.
After the first day’s teaching we were invited to the wedding. Yes, it is on a Monday evening and it was a great night – future blog.
“Try not to become a man of success but a man of value.
Albert Einstein”