In June 2016, Hannah Baker embarked on her journey to Sri Lanka, where she would spend four weeks volunteering with Plan my Gap Year, teaching children. The Jack Petchey Foundation awarded Hannah with a £230 Individual Grant for Volunteering to support her in her volunteer role by helping to cover the costs of the project.
Hannah taught children aged of 6-15, whose families had lost someone in the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004. The school in which Hannah volunteered was set up to provide extra curricula classes for the local children to join after school. At first, Hannah felt nervous about teaching the classes, as she had little teaching experience beforehand, however, she found a lot of support by working as part of a team with the other volunteers. As well as teaching classes every day, Hannah also helped students who were struggling with their school homework, offering them extra support that they wouldn’t otherwise had received. She spent her evenings planning lessons at the volunteer house, which enabled her to teach structured, effective classes and helped her get to know the 24 volunteers she shared the house with.
By teaching at the Tsunami school, Hannah and the other volunteers were helping their students to improve their academic skills, preparing them for their futures and improving their prospects. Hannah believes that by learning one of the world’s most widely spoken languages, they have the potential to pursue careers that can take them all over the world.
Although the volunteers didn’t teach on the weekends, Hannah decided to take part in some extra voluntary work during her free time. She worked with orphaned elephants that had been taken from their mothers and older elephants that had been used for performance purposes. Hannah said of the experience “This is something I believe strongly against so I was passionate about completing some extra voluntary work, and knowing I was helping their [the elephants] well-being.” By working in the elephant sanctuary, Hannah bonded with animals and helped to prepare them for their new lives in the wild.
As Hannah aspires to become a primary school teacher, her experience in Sri Lanka has given her skills that she will put to use in the future. She also wants to give children in the UK the opportunity to learn about Sri Lanka and its culture. Hannah says “I’ve learnt a few key phrases in Sri Lankan, so when I become a primary school teacher I will go on to teach them to my class, teaching them about the culture of another country that I’ve had first-hand experience with.” By doing this, her volunteer experience has not only benefitted the children she taught in Sri Lanka, but will bring a piece of her cultural exchange to enrich the learning of students in the UK.
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