For Spring Festival, the Chinese New Year in Beijing, I went to Makuyu, Kenya with 3 of my students and one other teacher. I was really excited to share the joy of volunteering abroad with students who are world travellers, but have only experienced travelling in organized tours with their parents. All three of them changed so much throughout the mission. From being technology obsessed, only hanging out with each other, being used to others cleaning up after them, and wasting resources, they quickly transformed into mature, socially aware people who enjoyed having face-to-face conversations, discovering and adapting to differences and a new culture, doing extra chores and helping others, and being independent.
Our task was to teach subjects that would allows kids to use their creativity in 3 different primary schools; one school per week. My students taught P.E, Latin dance, music, and visual art, and Chinese (for fun). They started off feeling a little frustrated because they did not know how to manage the class, but after teaching two lessons they were pros at teaching and were able to teach with steps while reviewing different parts of the lesson with them. They amazed me so much when they took the initiative to communicate with the local kids.
After a week, I felt comfortable enough to let my students walk around the village by themselves to go to the store, or to walk back to the compound. It really was a safe environment and they felt at ease as well. The local people there were very friendly, and very open. We joined in on their dances and festivals. Although I’m not allowed to speak to my students from China regarding anything religious, they openly asked the sisters questions about many Biblical stories and religious acts that they came across. I would say their first encounter with Catholics have been a very positive one. Some of my students still keep in touch with the Kenyan high school students through email and sending letters! Personally, I feel that this experience was a little different from my other volunteering experiences because my students were my first priority in this mission; making sure they received an enriching first overseas volunteering experience.