Dive into the inspiring chronicle of Beth Capek’s remarkable journey—a story that blends education, exploration, and the joy of making global connections. In Sicily, she shared her passion for teaching English and discovered a world of camaraderie, laughter, and meaningful change.
In the midst of Beth’s life story, a significant chapter unfolded during her years as an educator in the 1990s. In the classroom, Beth began guiding young minds through images of captivating European landscapes; witnessing their perspectives broadening. This ignited in her a strong desire for exploration, eventually leading her to embark on a fresh adventure with Global Volunteers after her 34-year career in middle school teaching.
As Beth planned an immersive travel experience, she reflected: “Like most travelers, I have done the group trips that skim the surface of a country, but Global Volunteers really gave me a chance to meet and interact with so many folks: students, teachers, community leaders, local restaurant owners- even the local coffee shop.”
As she researched where to travel and what type of volunteer work she would like to do, she found that Sicily beckoned her with its rich history. She reflects on these vivid memories fondly, citing how the intricate tapestry of local culture unfolded in the classroom with students, teachers, community leaders, and the friendly faces at coffee shop counters. A familiar routine with the barista led to friendly interactions, encapsulating the sense of camaraderie that colored her days.
However, the highlight of Beth’s journey was nestled within the walls of a local vocational school. She says, “I loved every minute of my two weeks in Sicily, but by far, the best part of the experience was teaching English at the local vocational school.” With about a hundred students, the school specialized in auto shop skills and the artistry of beauty, covering areas such as hair, makeup, and massage. The students’ enthusiasm for mastering conversational English was palpable, turning daily lessons into gateways of shared aspirations. Armed with supplies left by previous volunteers and an array of art materials, Beth embarked on a journey of language and laughter.
From teaching adjectives to crafting a skit about famous Sicilian scientist Archimedes, Beth’s teaching experiences were marked by creativity and camaraderie. She recalls, “The students were quite willing to help us with our Italian- amid many laughs at our pronunciation- and then we helped them with the English version.” The unique trade school where she taught features an auto shop that transformed into an unconventional classroom when she and her teammate brought their skit to life. Along with teammate Fred Dieckamp, Beth said the production featured “a tub of water and a jar of honey to demonstrate volume. It was fun to end the lesson by teaching the students that Archimedes shouted ‘Eureka’ after his discovery.” Each exclamation of ‘Eureka’ by the students resonated with mutual understanding, transcending language barriers and nurturing connections that spanned beyond borders.
Beth’s conversational English assignment extended from the classroom to the local senior center. Adorned in their finest attire, the seniors welcomed her with open hearts and freshly baked Italian cookies, symbols of the kinship that bound them. Through shared travel stories and the universal language of empathy, their connections deepened, leaving a lasting impression.
Evenings were filled with exploration as Beth ventured to local eateries alongside newfound companions. Chance meetings with students in charming piazzas added an extra layer of delight to her journey. Conversations flowed, recommendations were swapped, and laughter bridged languages and cultures. The restaurateurs – guardians of Sicilian flavors – embraced her warmly. What’s more, in what has become a tradition in Castelvetrano, Mayor Enzo Alfano and other local government officials underscored the impact of their cross-cultural connections with expressions of their heartfelt appreciation for their English tutoring.
Now at home, Beth’s desire to share this exceptional experience with her retired teacher friends grows stronger. She says she allure of fresh adventures and new connections tugs at her heartstrings. Global Volunteers’ ability to create a sense of safety, value, and belonging for every traveler fuels her passion to spread the word and she hopes to join another team soon with a few friends in tow.
Beth’s time in Sicily has etched memories that will forever grace the canvas of her life – a mosaic of laughter, learning, and love. The scent of Sicilian coffee, the taste of locally raised beef, the refrain of her students shouting “Eureka” – they linger, a testament to the transformative power of crossing boundaries, both geographical and linguistic, to create meaningful change in the tapestry of human experiences.