Fed up with a harsh Minnesota winter, alumna Alan Maclin boarded a plane bound for sunny St. Lucia to volunteer and get his mind off snow drifts. In his own words, Alan reflects on his service experience, and explains how the warm and friendly primary school students he taught helped him forget the cold back home.
by Global Volunteers Alumna Alan Maclin
Wow! I was off to a great start on my second Global Volunteers service program – this time, in St. Lucia. It didn’t hurt that the temperature in Minnesota was 3 degrees when I left, and 80 degrees when I landed on the Island! After the fairly long, windy, hilly ride through the beautiful, green countryside of St. Lucia to our “home away from home,” JJ’s Paradise Inn, we were rewarded with a fabulous welcome dinner right on the shore of Marigot Bay. We were off to an excellent start!!
“I truly felt like a welcomed visitor appreciated for my work, volunteering with their kids, and not just another tourist!”
We began our orientation on Sunday morning by attending the optional church service in Anse La Raye, a short drive from our lodging. I was in awe of the joyful voices of the congregation, the neat wooden roof looking like a great ship’s hull, and two beautiful girls, sitting behind one another in the pews, communicating–or just playing– with hand gestures, while their mothers sang and listened attentively. I immediately felt welcomed in the community, especially after a warm embrace from the man standing beside me, when the priest invited the congregation to give your neighbor a hug!
Afterwards,we acquainted ourselves to the area by walking around the small town, observing the little homes and public facilities. The streets were clustered by people gathered in groups who greeted our Global Volunteers Team Leader Chemida and us with enthusiasm.
My work project was teaching the Anse le Raye primary school kids. They were amazing, and teaching them enriched my service in St. Lucia immeasurably. I learned about their way of learning, and tried different approaches to my teaching techniques. I was delighted to witness their progress – and to see their hands thrust in the air accompanied by huge smiles when I entered a classroom. A special memory though was greeting the “championship 5th-grade boys” returning from their competition as winners over other schools on the Island. It was a really neat feeling as they sang and showed off their trophy to their cheering student body. I identified with that special feeling indeed!
The people of Anse Le Raye are so friendly. I enjoyed several “chance” encounters with local people I got to know, including Charles–lacking teeth and clean clothes, but brimming with warmth. Madeline—who had a card table offering a few bags of chips and candies for sale would strike up a conversation with me as I passed through the village on my way to lunch. And not forgetting a number of “Rasta” men who greeted me sincerely and in a friendly fashion. I truly felt like a welcomed visitor appreciated for my work, volunteering with their kids – and not just another tourist!
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Anne Frank
Chemida is the ideal host and leader (and not just a leader by name). She is a fountain of knowledge, enthusiastically sharing information about herself, her beautiful country, its culture, and its people. I feel I learned so much from her as she drove us to and fro, ate meals with us and shared stories of her life in St. Lucia. At the same time, she ensured we’d have a meaningful experience in this beautiful setting. I gained more than I could’ve imagined. The trip has been an ideal mixture of experiencing a very different culture, feeling like I made a difference, fun, and adventure. Truly a memorable experience of service in St. Lucia!