When my program first began I was offered the chance to volunteer at a local school once a week to assist the teacher in an English class. There aren’t a lot of fluent English speakers in Sevilla, even those qualified to teach English, so they are constantly looking for native speakers to help the children, and themselves, better their skills. When I heard that little kids were involved, I jumped right on the opportunity.
Every Tuesday before my own classes begin, I take the metro to Calasancio Hispalense, a private school with a very large, gated campus. The students taught there range from ages 3 to 17. I chose to volunteer with the 3 year old class. English classes in Sevilla begin at 3 years of age, so they are all at the beginner level. They know how to count to 10, sing a few songs, tell me what their names are, and some scattered vocabulary here and there. They run around in their adorable uniforms- navy blue sweaters and dress pants or skirts with tights. It’s one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. The teacher is very sweet and he gives me time to talk to the class and play whatever games I want with them. I taught them Simon Says the other day and gave a lesson on the Easter bunny and our holiday traditions in the United States. They were in awe. Last week I arrived a little early and got to spend some time with the 5-year-old group. Their excitement and enthusiasm really made me laugh. They were so interested in my life because I’m not from their country and wanted to ask me every question they could think of. We talked about my family and friends, where I live, how I got here, and how long I’m staying. Some of their funniest questions have been if I’m married, if I miss my mom, and if I’ve met the president of the United States. When I told one girl I’ve seen the White House her jaw dropped so low to the floor you would’ve thought I told her I met Santa Clause. I don’t know if my visiting is more fun for them, or me. We all have such a great time.
Volunteering in general is a very rewarding experience, but I feel that it’s even more meaningful to do in another country because it connects members of the global community face-to-face. Often times in the United States services consist of making a
donation, sending goods to people in need, or fundraising for foundations where you never personally see the difference you are making in someone’s life. In my current situation, I can see the children’s language skills improve each week and feel a sense of accomplishment and pride that I helped to make that happen. Not only do I get to help them, but when my time here is over, I will get the satisfaction of knowing that I made a difference in my host community.
“The first step in this journey is to venture outside our comfort zones and get involved directly and personally in the lives of others, especially those occupying the margins of society…to create respectful and mutually beneficial relationships.” -Richard Slimbach
I think that this quote best relates to the service I am performing because it explains how my service experience has impacted my time abroad. Volunteering has assisted me in breaking out of the typical study abroad routine and involving myself with people of my host community. One of my goals coming here was to meet new people and to not spend all my time surrounded by other Americans. I think that donating my time to Calasancio Hispalense has helped me to accomplish this goal, while helping the students to learn better English, and therefore bridging the gap between our two countries, as we all become more active members of the global community. It’s not everyday that you get to help people with a skill you use almost as often as you breathe, and have a great time while doing it. Even though it’s only a small contribution, I feel good about giving back to the community that has given me so many learning and life-enriching opportunities over the past few months.