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Displaying items by tag: volunteering abroad

Volunteering Abroad: two volunteers’ experiences


Give an education to gain an education

Gaining an education was neither the purpose of this venture nor was it within the reaches of my imagination how literal ”give an education to gain an education” would prove to be. I had decided to spend a year volunteering. It was a vaguely researched decision of the heart over the head that steered me towards India and the Tibetan community. My heart chose well. I threw caution to the wind and came to India without a plan, without direction, and without expectations. Diving headfirst is a risky business, but it achieves depth.

SL370897And so it was with hope, excitement and a dash of fear that I began to wander. I stumbled across E.S. Tibet, and after a brief introduction and tour, my heart had finished wandering. I moved into the volunteer rooms as soon as the manager agreed to take me on as a teacher. I agreed to stay for one month. After one week I asked if it would be possible to stay until Christmas. After two weeks, I asked if I could possibly return after Christmas for another six months. I had wandered into a fairy ring with no return.

All The StudentsMy first impression of the students was the level of hospitality and respect shown to the manager, volunteers and their fellow students alike. They are relentless in this. They predicted and still predict my every need, and as a sole traveler I am never left in want. The atmosphere in the school is one of warmth, compassion and understanding. They care for each other as we care for siblings. No one is forgotten or left behind. I feel humbled and privileged to have been welcomed into this family.

I have taught the students English. They have taught me humility, compassion and honesty. The teacher became the student. They have shown me how I want to live my life, the importance of our relationships with others, and the importance of openness with ourselves and with others. They have shown me the meaning of contentment. I will forever be grateful to each of them for our chats, for our debates, for spontaneous hugs, for the fact that they pulled me up the mountain, for their humor and enthusiasm, and for their joyful singing.

And now my time here is coming to an end, yet I feel that my life has just begun; my life as I want to now live it. The line between teacher and student has been breached, and I have made twenty-four friends. While I still love to wander, the school had taught me how to rest, enjoy, and appreciate. I will wander on, but this place will remain a fresh print on my heart.

©Eibhlin Nic Diarmada

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A Special Life Experience

With a grown-up family and a good life in Ireland, I was eager to try new experiences and give something back. I’ve always been interested and involved in the world refugee situation, and I didn’t have to look too long before finding information on E.S.Tibet. I applied to volunteer to teach English for two months in North India at a school for young adult Tibetan refugees.

I arrived in Delhi where I was well looked after in the Tibetan quarters, then got the night bus to Dharamsala. I arrived at 7.30 a.m. and was met by Lugyal, the school manager, on his motorbike. I was taken to the school in Upper Sukkar where there were prayer flags flapping in the breeze and twenty-three students and four other teachers having breakfast. I was presented with my own cup and given a room at the bottom of the garden, which has the most amazing views of the Himachal Mountains that change every day. Introductions to all the smiling faces were made, and I wondered how I was going to remember all the strange names.

I rested up for a couple of days before starting to teach. I was very impressed with the level of English the students have and also their enthusiasm, sense of humor and dedication to learn. More than once I’ve thought how much we take free education in the West for granted.

DSC01963The students, aged between 20 and 32-years-old, are of an age that could so easily be forgotten or over-looked, which is just one reason why E.S.Tibet is such an important project. It’s more than a school – it’s their home away from home, and they each feel part of a family here, and it wasn’t long before I felt the same.

DSCN0735Most mornings we, the teachers, woke to the sound of students reading aloud from their English novels, Sambo singing, and the smell of freshly cooked Tingmo (steamed bread). Breakfast often includes a challenge, and no one is exempt, not even the manager, who on one occasion had us in stitches at this “Ballet” performance. We laugh a lot before 8 a.m. classes, and this ensures a great start to the day. The atmosphere in the school is something that should be experienced, and it is both a pleasure and a privilege to be here. I’ve learned so much about Tibet and about the students themselves. On my second week we saw H.H. the Dalai Lama three times and attended three days of his teachings in early June.

Photo with Dalai Lama

P1080470Everyone works so hard and diligently, but other activities have included an unforgettable camping trip, a tour of the Norbulingka Institute, and a great day at the “Funky town” swimming pool. On Saturday, classes take turns to perform a short drama presentation, which is always very entertaining, and it’s great to see the confidence these performances instill in the quieter students. “Momo night” is once a month, and everyone is involved. We eat our fill, sing, dance and play games.

DSCN0622The level of English the students have needs to be complimented. So much thought, hard work and dedication truly makes the school a role model that schools in the West could learn and benefit from.

This has been one of the most important experiences of my life, and I have gained so much from the big “family” that is E.S.Tibet. I will continue to promote and support the school in any way I can when I go home, and I look forward to coming back. I have the greatest admiration for everyone at the school. Thank you Lugyal and all you students. God bless and free Tibet!

©Paula Mc Mullan

For more information: Educational Support Tibet: www.estibet.ch

Published in involved

I would like to share one unexceptional day of the three weeks I spent in South Africa.

It started off normally except we were out of orange squash. No big deal, I took water instead. As I was walking to work, Elizabeth caught up with me, slightly out of breath, and handed me a small flask. “It’s your orange juice for lunch. I’m so sorry it’s late. I noticed last night that we had run out of orange juice in the lodge so I planned to get some from my house and give it to you this morning, but you are quicker than usual. I know you are here alone and that must be difficult – we all need family and friends. It’s my job to look after you and to be your family, so I wanted to give you juice from my home just for today.”

Published in involved

I set my alarm for 6 a.m., but since the roosters wake earlier, I’m generally up by 5:30. After a year and half, my life as a Peace Corps volunteer in a Samoan village has in many ways become familiar and routine – but naturally, there are plenty of surprises always waiting to sneak up on me.

Published in involved

So, let me get this straight. We take the number 5 bus to the end of the route, switch to the number 14, and then get off near the fountain. Then we walk uphill until we get to a path in the cornfield. At every crossroads in the cornfield, turn left until we find the building site? Do I have that right?

Published in involved

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