I would definitely recommend Travellers
Volunteering to anybody that wants a challenge and is ready to get stuck in! Or
if you’re interested in spending time to get to know a place and its people. In
addition anyone seeking to gain experience, whether it’s teaching or something else,
you are given responsibility and a chance to prove yourself that might not be open
to you in this country, so I say, Go for it!
TEACHING DISADVANTAGED CHILDREN IN SCHOOLS
I taught English to children of mixed ages and abilities in two different institutions.
Before I left I attended a two-day intensive TEFL TIME course organised by Travellers
but other than that I had no previous experience of teaching.
The most important thing is to be flexible, resourceful and creative and just throw
yourself into it. Lessons and classes can vary some were half an hour, some two
hours – which sounds a lot but time flies when you’re in the classroom! We were
given guidance on what level the children were at and what topics they had covered
before. This was helpful when planning lessons so as not to repeat what they had
already learned or in some cases to repeat it if necessary.
The main focus for us was conversation and getting the children to communicate with
one another in English so it involved finding fun ways to encourage them, this can
be fun for you too!
CARING FOR CHILDREN IN A CRECHE IN RIO DE JANEIRO:
I was also placed in an inner-city Crèche and was immediately made to feel very
welcome by both children and staff. I admired the whole ethos of the Crèche, parents
that could afford it paid for their children to attend but those that couldn’t pay
were equally as welcomed.
Many of the children lived with social and learning difficulties as a result of
living conditions and disrupted family lives. It was important to be mindful of
this and be considerate and attentive to each child’s needs.
Although we were there to try to teach English to the children, this was in a very
relaxed environment where playing with, caring for and loving the children was seen
as equally if not more important. I absolutely loved my time with the kids and I
found it difficult to leave.
On my last day the kids made me a poster and I was presented with a watermelon with
a candle on top (this was not some weird Brazilian tradition they merely had no
time to bake a cake!). I was also delighted and a little speechless when they took
me on a surprise trip to a nearby Samba school and I was treated to seeing the kids
LEARNING PORTUGUESE LESSONS DURING THE PROJECT
I signed up for a few Portuguese lessons a week alongside my project. After buying
some ‘teach yourself Brazilian Portuguese’ tapes and failing to pick much up before
I left, I thought the lessons would help me get the most out of my project. I was
right, in that although it’s not essential to speak the language it can allow you
to feel more independent and also to become more involved in the projects.
They organised the lessons to fit around my teaching and my language teachers were
very accommodating when I would arrive rushed from school/crèche without having
done my homework due to a late running lesson or bad traffic!
My lessons were one-to-one which was fantastic as I could move at my own pace -
my case this was pretty slow! We covered practical topics such as purchasing goods,
food and drink, transport and helpful classroom phrases. I also got useful tips
from my friendly teacher on where was best to shop and go out in Rio! And every
lesson I was offered Coffee (which I learned to drink short and black with lots
of sugar) and sometimes homemade cakes!
MY TIME IN GENERAL
I can't speak highly enough of my local co-ordinator, Fabio, he was great! Always
available and constantly checking in with us to make sure we were happy with everything.
He introduced us to the schools and the children but also to the City. He took us
out to sample local food, music and dancing, we also saw him in action practicing
Capoeira (he teaches it). Anything I needed to ask about my projects or Rio, he
had an answer for and I’m very grateful to him for ensuring I had such a good time.
The Art Hostel where I stayed was amazing, it is in a great location, a very safe,
vibrant and interesting area of the city and I felt really welcomed and thrown into
Brazilian culture during my stay, they also pushed me to speak Portuguese which
I had an unforgettable time in Rio de Janeiro and although I didn’t visit at Carnival
time, there was still a vibrant party atmosphere. I’m not a big football fan but
Futebol is an entirely different ball game and seeing Fluminense Vs Boca Juniors
game at the huge Maracanã was a highlight of my trip.
With a volunteer placement I was able to see sides of the city that most tourists
brush past or don’t see at all.