Education professionals who volunteer overseas receive a lifetime of experiences that enrich the lives of others and themselves, both personally and professionally. VSO volunteer Lorraine Dodge talked to Eteach about her experience working as a teacher trainer in Nepal helping to develop the skills and capacity of local teachers.
“I have learnt so much from my volunteering experience”
If you’ve ever felt like you’ve learnt everything there is to learn about teaching, then going to teach in another country can be really eye-opening. You find different ways of doing things and different approaches that people can bring to a situation. It was definitely a real learning experience for me.
One of the great things about teaching in Nepal is that there isn’t a typical day – all the children are different, and they can surprise you on a daily basis.
“During my teaching career, VSO was always in the back of my mind”
I was aware of VSO’s work for a long time and always knew it was something I would really like to do. After taking early retirement in my 50s, I felt like it was time for a change and I went for it.
I wanted to continue to use the skills I had and do something I was familiar with, but also to continue to learn new things as well. Volunteering with VSO turned out to be a brilliant way to do both.
“I loved my two years in Nepal”
I volunteered as an education advisor in Nepal working with teachers, head teachers and the District Education Office, which was a great mix of different responsibilities. I also worked with the local community and the parents, encouraging their involvement with schools.
The Nepali education system was completely different from what I was used to, and so initially I spent some time finding out what the curriculum was like, what difficulties teachers had and how the children responded in lessons.
It was important to be sensitive to the different needs of the people you were working with. Once I got to know everyone I could pick up on the little things you can’t see when you first start out, which helps when you are suggesting new ideas and approaches.
“There is a lot that UK trained teachers can achieve”
Teachers in Nepal have a lot of freedom in what they can do in the classroom, but many of them lack the confidence to really take advantage of this. This is partly because they don’t receive a lot of initial training before they start teaching.
One of the ways my placement helped was in showing how you can get children to open up by allowing them the freedom to learn in an active way. I think enthusiastic teachers taught in the UK will have many valuable insights related to teaching that they can share with teachers in other parts of the world.
As well as working with teachers individually, I was able to speak to head teachers about ways they can motivate their staff and also discuss with the District Education Office ways to help children with special needs. VSO aims to create lasting change through its placements, which is why the teachers that they recruit mainly work as advisors as this helps to reach more children in the long run.
“I’ve really missed the life I had in Nepal”
When I arrived in Nepal there were so many sounds and smells that were unfamiliar. It’s a really colourful place. Now that I’m back in the UK everyone is wearing grey or black, and I do miss the vibrancy you get in Nepal.
I still keep in touch with my Nepali friends and get regular updates on the progress they are making. There is one particular school that a colleague and I are raising money for in the UK. It has been great to continue to be involved with the work I did out there.
I’m now involved in lots of work for local charities, but in so many ways I’m tempted to do it all over again and volunteer overseas once more!
To learn more about life as a VSO volunteer, visit their Eteach Career Site following this link, and register with their talent pool to be alerted to future jobs.