Volunteer Comments about their experiences in Bolivia

My name is Jo-Ann and I have been teaching ESL for 3 years. Teaching Teachers in Bolivia was a new adventure and experience. I still struggle with the words to fully capture how empowering the experience was and will be in the future. I would have to say, that empowering other teachers to do better and be better, in return empowered me to do better and be better. The end result in both countries is that our students will benefit, and they are what matter.

The trip has been phenomenal in many ways, and I would love to return here. I certainly will do another volunteer teaching type of tour somewhere. It's incredible to share my knowledge and learn from the locals, and they really make you welcome when you stay with them for an extended period, quite different from being a tourist. I have a lot to be thankful for, and truly appreciate all that we have in Canada. (Monica)

During the month of August 2014, I was fortunate to have the amazing opportunity to volunteer my time with Cathie’s program “Teachers for Teachers in Bolivia”. I had actually found Cathie’s program the previous year, but was unable to participate due to work and life obligations. Nonetheless, Cathie had emailed me a copy of the Journal write up she completes every year – post program – and I became even more interested in her community development work. We had emailed and skyped each other over the 2013-2014 year and in that August I found myself on a tiny plane to a small Amazonian village called “Rurre.” I think this was one of the most adventurous things I have done in my young life, and I’m glad Cathie was there to help me through – along every step of the journey, Cathie had provided me with tips, advice, stories, practical support and knowledge that would help me navigate life in this part of South America. For this, I am very grateful – so is my mother!

I actually am very new to the world of EAL teaching – I earned my CTESL (certificate in teaching English as a Second language) in 2013 and have been volunteering in my home province of Manitoba with an EAL program specifically for Newcomers. I also have a passion (addiction?) for travel, so being involved in a program where I can travel AND teach made complete sense. I also knew that I wanted to experience daily life and culture in another country, teach in an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) context and try to improve my Spanish.

The teachers we were working with were fantastic – many were highly motivated and just a pleasure to work with. Although, this isn’t to say that working in a different culture doesn’t present certain unique challenges. Latin American culture as a whole is very different than working in a Canadian-Euro environment we are used to back home. For example, it wasn’t uncommon for our students to be consistently late each class for around 30-40 minutes. But cross cultural differences are to be expected, and shouldn’t be deterring. I feel that I have a strong connection to Rurrenabaque Bolivia, not only to the unique sights, sounds and foods, but also to the many friendships I have made with the teachers we were working with. I can’t wait to go back, and continue making a difference. I fully support this program of Cathie’s, and I hope others will consider volunteering with Teachers Teaching Teachers in Bolivia.

Stefani Kolochuk

I volunteered for Cathie's English project in Bolivia in August of 2014. She and I work for the same college in Calgary Alberta. Cathie’s passion for the project was contagious. We met up with with two other volunteers in Rurre, Bolivia, ready to teach to the local teachers who were expected to teach English in their schools but had neither the fluency themselves nor the teaching resources to do the job.
Getting classes organized and communicating with prospective participants was extremely challenging, but Cathie persevered and students arrived: not as many as anticipated, but enough enthusiastic learners to keep us busy in our morning, afternoon and evening classes. The interactive materials provided by Cathie provided a strong basis for our lessons. Cathie encouraged all the volunteers to model good language teaching techniques for our students to follow in their own classes.
When we were not teaching, we had plenty of opportunities to explore the community and beyond by going on excursions to the jungle and pampas areas near the town. I was also able to travel to other parts of Bolivia and on to Peru when I finished my volunteer stint. I would encourage future volunteers to do the same.
Living and working in a developing country, such as Bolivia, is so much richer an experience than just travelling there as a tourist. During my stay in Rurre, I quickly felt at home in the community with lots of opportunities to interact with the people with my limited Spanish or their limited English. In our basic accommodation, we experienced the realities of our students’ way of life: hot water, a working fan or electric kettle were rare luxuries. Household chores, food purchasing and preparation were such a major part of our female students’ lives that regular attendance at our free English classes was often impossible.
For anyone interested in a short-term teaching opportunity in Latin America, I highly recommend volunteering in Bolivia. You won’t regret it! (Joanne)