Dominique Hegarty spent the past year working at Don Bosco Technical School in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. He taught both English and a wide range of life skills. The group he worked with varied in age – the youngest being three years old, through to 24!
Dominique was a mentor for the students, teaching the young children how to swim, and helping paint a mural in the school’s new kindergarten. He was able to do this because he applied for and was given an Individual Grant for Volunteering (IGFV) from the Jack Petchey Foundation.
Dominique said: “Initially, I found the teaching challenging and I lacked confidence in my work but as the months went by I gained more and more confidence. Mainly, because many students told me they enjoyed my lessons. By the end of my volunteering, I felt very confident in the classroom and I am very proud of myself for continuing to work hard even when I faced such challenges.”
This project made a difference to the students Dominique was teaching primarily because they were able to learn English. Having an additional language will be beneficial for the young people because they will be more desirable candidates for employment and in turn, are likely to have more opportunities available to them. Furthermore, learning English has made them less self-conscious, so now the students feel less embarrassed speaking another language to native speakers.
Dominique said: “Through this overall experience, I have become far more independent. There were many times throughout the year where I had to make big decisions independently because my parents or other members of staff weren’t there to help me. This independence is a skill that I am glad I mastered before going to university. Amongst other skills gained during my time volunteering, I’ve become more resilient and hardworking. Teaching so many students and having multiple classes each week meant I needed to have a very solid routine and I had to persevere around other challenges in order to not let anyone else down. Whilst working in the school I couldn’t let small inconveniences get in the way of the work because I really wanted to create great lessons for the students. I think that this work ethic has stayed with me and at university now I’m able to work hard and achieve good grades with higher expectations of myself.”
Dominique thoroughly enjoyed his volunteering experience, most specifically the aspects of working with the kindergarten children. He said that this is because teaching them was incredibly rewarding and they seemed to progress much quicker than the older students. His favourite thing to teach them was the alphabet because once they had learnt how to write it they appeared so proud of themselves.
Thinking of volunteering? Take a look at this page to see whether you’re eligible for a grant.