Retired special education teacher Mary Rowlette said she learned in the rural village of Ipalamwa that we’re all more alike than different. Her personal goal, she said was to help children, observe, support others and make a difference in July 2018. Read on for her interview with Greece Country Manager and Social Media Coordinator Sam Pinakoulaki about summer service in Tanzania:
Mary said she contributed to a number of projects, but her main assignment was teaching conversational English, level three to young children aged 8 to 12. The classrooms are over-crowded, and often the lessons took place outside on the soccer field. The teachers and volunteers try to integrate play into the English tutoring; switching between topics of discussion to hold the students’ attention. Singing and games are a favorite activity during the summer months (actually winter break in Tanzania), and work well as tools for teaching practical conversation skills. Mary said it was a challenge to work with her teammates to come up with new conversational subjects each day, but the children were delighted by the volunteers’ efforts. “Everyone can do this successfully,” Mary said. It’s a matter of putting yourself in the mind of a young child and seeing their needs through their eyes. “Their lives are quite simple at that age, so just going with the flow is the most effective strategy, in my opinion. They just love the attention.”
Teaching wasn’t all she did. “I also made home visits to offer psycho-social support to young mothers and their children and did some light painting in the community school,” Mary said. She felt her days were filled with new experiences, with always an opportunity to gain deep insights into the Tanzanian culture.
Did this kind of immersion within the community give you the chance to form new relationships?
Oh yes, definitely. My fellow teammates were fabulous. We shared many an hour laughing, crying, sharing stories. It was a terrific way to learn from each other. As for the children, well, they were amazing. Throughout this volunteer experience, the children and I learned laughed and sang many, many songs. They even tried to teach me Swahili. That’s something I’ll never forget!
Do you believe this volunteer experience has changed your life in any way? And if so how?
Yes, it certainly made an impact. The whole experience demonstrated to me that, no matter who we are, no matter where we’re from, we all need to work together and accept each other. We ALL love, laugh, cry share joy and suffer hardships BUT we continue to live and move forward with our lives.
Do you think helping children in this way enables an understanding between cultures?
Spending quality time with people of all ages is the only way to understand a culture. Children are so open-minded, and we can be such a big influence in their lives. It’s a privilege to help them as a volunteer teacher this way. As I travel both as a tourist and a volunteer, I make a point of being kind to others. I Listen to what they have to say. I Observe and absorb all information presented to me. When I share my experiences with others, I do so in the hope that they too may participate on a Global Volunteers service program somewhere in the world.
With your charitable attitude, Mary, we think you’re an inspiration to all you encounter! Thank you!
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