First-time volunteer Kathy Lafond was motivated to expand her volunteering options once she retired. “It’is time for me to give back to those less fortunate,” said the former IT project manager from VA. She chose St. Lucia for the opportunity to tutor 6- year-olds for two weeks. There, she said she learned more than she taught – most importantly, that service is “in her blood.” She generously shared reflections on her service program with us.
How did you contribute to the community through your work projects?
My primary work project was teaching conversational English at the Anse La Raye Infant School. I was assigned to teach the first-graders (6-year-olds) – exactly what I wanted to do. I taught children one-on-one, and helped with extra tutoring. Some of the children were at a very basic reading level, while others were more advanced.
The children were all beautiful in spirit and energy, and always polite and welcoming, as well as keen and eager to learn! Their eyes lit up when they “got it,” and I praised them often. I especially remember one of my students, David, who taught me how to play a game called “heads up” using flash cards. It was so much fun and totally unexpected. Even the kids I didn’t teach would strive for my attention. They loved to talk about their families, especially their brothers and sisters. The family is clearly a priority in St. Lucia. As for the teachers, they seemed so sincere and welcomed me with open arms, always smiling and asking how I was doing.
The last day of teaching was a special day for two reasons. One, because two girls were celebrating their birthdays, and the entire school sang a beautiful birthday song to them. And two, the goodbye ceremony the school had arranged for me. At a special assembly, the children sang several songs and David, a student I worked with regularly, presented me with a gift and made a speech. I was touched, and he was so adorable! I felt so appreciated, and for that, I am thankful. After the assembly ended, the children swarmed me with hugs, and when one group moved on, another group appeared! It was so much fun and a wonderful way to end my time at the school in Anse la Raye.
Were there any surprises during the program?
I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in St. Lucia during the “Nobel Laureate” Festival where there was a one-day celebration at the Infant School. Several groups of children put on different skits in honor of the two Nobel laureates of Saint Lucia – Sir William Arthur Lewis and Sir Derek Walcott. It was clearly a proud heritage for the island, and, I was delighted that even the youngest students learned about these great men. I didn’t know about the St. Lucian laureates before my trip, but I was so happy to learn!
– Kathy Lafond
“Never in my life have I ever had the opportunity to be so immersed in a different culture.”
Did you have the opportunity to learn about the culture?
Indeed I did! Discovering and learning about the St. Lucia culture was made easier with the help of the Team Leader, Chem, who is a font of knowledge about the village, the island, and the OECS (Organization of Eastern Carribean States). I did what I could to learn everything I possibly could about the community. While walking around, or even driving in the car, I’d smile and wave to all, I wanting to spread good cheer. I’d take walks and stop and talk to community members, always asking questions and being genuinely interested in their lives in St. Lucia. I learned a lot!
“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”– Author unknown
Did you learn anything about yourself through this experience?
More than anything from my whole experience serving in Anse la Raye, I learned that service is in my blood, and how much I love working with young children. This was my first Global Volunteer’s service program. Never in my life have I ever had the opportunity to be so immersed in a different culture. The kids were amazing, the teachers were miracle workers, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience! Thank you, Global Volunteers!