Every generation of young adults cops flack for not being enough-this or being too much of that. You know how it goes. Well, they couldn’t be referring to the dedicated group of volunteer teachers I met in Ubud this week. Aged between 19 and 22 (sometimes as young as 17 years old), they’re on a mission to bring the English language to the developing non-English speaking world. Today they’re in Bali, and two weeks into the six-week teaching program, their eyes sparkle with excitement for the day ahead.
“The progress that the kids make is incredible. I believe we’re making a difference, and I hope I’m taking part in something important.”– Myriam Narin, 21 years old from Paris.
They are indeed making a difference, program coordinator Citti tells me over a pleasant lunch in Tenganan village, “The local teachers do teach English language skills, but nothing compares to learning the language from a native English speaker.” Citti herself learnt to speak English as a second language in her hometown in Southern Thailand, when she volunteered as a teacher’s assistant.
Letz Live partners with local schools and kindergartens in the area to facilitate extracurricular English language classes. When we dropped into one of the schools, it was easy to see why the volunteer teachers radiated with an infectious sense of fulfillment. The pupils were completely engaged, and actively participated in the classroom.
What to expect
The volunteer programs start with an orientation. Newly arrived groups of teachers are taken on a tour of Ubud – the Ubud market, the palace, Monkey Forest and the Kecak fire and trance dance. I happened to visit on orientation day for 25 new teachers. It seemed like a great way to experience Ubud and make new friends (whom you actually get to know over the course of the program rather than the transient traveller types).
Next, Citti took me on a tour of the Balinese family compounds in Tenganan village where the volunteers live for the duration of the program. The traditional houses are well-groomed and charming, separated into living, communal, relaxation and praying areas in classic Balinese style. Living in close quarters with local families is part of the culturally immersive experience. The volunteers not only gain an understanding of local life, but the lives of their pupils.
Before you begin your teaching program, the team will brief you on first aid procedures and everything else you’ll need to know about working with the kids. Teaching plans are confirmed every Friday, and every morning you’ll get some time in the morning to plan your lessons. You spend about two hours each day during the weekday planning lessons and three hours teaching the schools after lunch.
Volunteer groups are split into two: you’ll either teach in a primary school, or a kindergarten. In addition to the teaching projects, the organisation also coordinates construction programs that help schools fix shabby walls, install water fountains and paint classrooms.
So what’s a typical day in the life of a volunteer? Well, you’ll live in a beautiful village in Ubud, in harmony with the local community. There are so many markets, temples and local attractions to visit, or just get lost riding a scooter through the rice paddies.
All your meals are prepared by the host families, and there’s plenty of cheap cafes and local warungs where you can hang out. The organisation also arranges cultural activities such as cooking classes, batik painting, tours and anything you’d want to do while you’re in Bali really. They’ve got you covered.
Outside your teaching commitments (9am to 11am planning lessons and 2pm to 5pm teaching during the weekday) – you’re free to explore Bali with the other volunteers. Just like summer camp!
The big question: Would you come back?
The measure of a fantastic experience boils down to one question: would you come back? For the volunteer teachers I asked, the answer was a very certain “Yes.”
The program is a fantastic way to gain real-world experience in teaching English as a second language. The young ladies I spoke to were either about to begin university, or were in the middle of their studies. The one thing they had in common, was a complete devotion to a career in teaching English as a second language. If this sounds like you, find out more about Letz Live on their website.