Six-time Portugal alumnus Donn Rance was eager to return to service in Beja last fall after not having been able to serve in 2020 due to the pandemic. During this service program, he worked with many students who had never had a Global Volunteer in their classroom before. Here, he shares what it was like to return to service and work with new groups of students on their English language skills. He describes how he was touched that the dedicated and talented sixth-grade students created storybooks with a caricature of him to thank him for his help in their classrooms. Read on for what Donn has to say about working with these engaging Portuguese students and teacher.
by Donn Rance
When returning to Portugal after two years, I honestly felt like nothing had changed. I had been keeping up on how things were going in Portugal and staying in contact with teachers and friends. When I went back in October, most of the COVID restrictions had been lifted and masks were only required in schools, doctor’s offices, and pharmacies – quite similar to what we had in Florida. Frankly, it was very refreshing to see old friends, being back at Santa Maria School, and shopping and enjoying familiar places.
Traveling didn’t present any problems, but my expectations had already been set before I left. I knew what the requirements were and I was prepared. Other than wearing a mask, it was just like old times in the schools. I felt safe on the program, and again, preparing and knowing the restrictions and protocols prior to leaving made it easier.
This year, in addition to working in some familiar places, I worked for the first time with a teacher, Paula Aurélio, and her sixth-grade audio visual class where very little English was spoken. This was Paula’s first time working with a Global Volunteer. I had worked with four or five of the students in previous years and some had had experiences with other Global Volunteers previously. I would say for 80% of the class, this was their first experience working with a Global Volunteer.
“Traveling didn’t present any problems, but my expectations had already been set before I left. I felt safe on the program, and again, preparing and knowing the restrictions and protocols prior to leaving made it easier.”– Donn Rance, Portugal volunteer in October 2021
The students were working on creating stories using an online software called Story Jumper. It is interactive, allowing students to customize storybooks. Well, they decided to create one book named Donn, the Global Volunteer and included a tribute page, which included my background and also a caricature they drew of me. The book included pictures of Florida and some of the major tourist sites in Lisbon. It was a total of nine pages with an audio message to me at the end. This project, which included learning the software as well as writing the book, took the full two weeks I was there. That was four individual classes which met twice per week.
It was definitely a surprise for me that they wanted to write about me, especially since they had just met me. On the first day of class, I did my typical introduction about who I am, and then they asked many questions. We did some internet research on Florida before we started writing the story.
When they presented it to me at the end of my two weeks with them, I was very impressed. It was two fifth and sixth-grade students meeting twice per week and they did an excellent job. The teacher, Paula, and her assistants were great. It was an excellent two weeks. I loved this class, and it was a highlight for me.
Teacher in Beja Describes Working with Volunteer as “One of the Best Experiences as a Teacher”
The students’ teacher, Paula Aurélio, had not worked with a Global Volunteer before, either, and shares that naturally she was not sure what to expect. In this note she wrote to Donn after the service program, she describes it as one of the best experiences she’s had as a teacher and that the kids have mentioned every day that they miss him:
It sounds like it was a win-win-win for all involved as Paula, the students, and Donn all had fun while learning about each other and their cultures, and the students advanced their English skills.
“This was my first experience with Global Volunteers and it was really beyond my expectations! I really had a wonderful time and so did the kids! I also have to say that Donn really had a very important role in all this! The way he interacted with the students and the teachers and always being so available to cooperate and help really made a difference!”– Paula Aurélio, teacher
Donn is already looking forward to his eighth service program in Portugal, which he is planning for fall 2022.
You may also like: