One of our volunteers Emma Sutton recently returned from her Lattitude placement at Lautoka School for Special Education in Fiji. We caught up with her to ask a few questions about her experience:
What roles and duties did you have?
I took the role of IT teacher as the school had recently had an IT suite donated. Despite the new IT suite, not many of the teachers knew how to use the computers so not only did I teach the students about the computers, I also taught the teachers. I taught every class in the school once per week for half an hour. The lessons varied depending on the age and ability of the class. Some of the younger classes just learnt how to use the mouse through paint, while others learnt about Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. The teachers counted on me to try and fix anything technical as well as teaching IT, setting up projectors and using the internet to find information.
I also taught Art and Craft. I saw each class once a week again for Art lessons. These we just fun lessons for the children. All of the children loved this lesson as it was relaxing and enjoyable for them, a break from the intensity of their other lessons. Each week I taught the classes how to make something different.
In addition to teaching IT and Art and Craft I assisted with Sports lessons. I took the role of Sports teacher for a few weeks while the teacher was off sick where I taught netball and athletics. I also assisted with the swimming lessons each Friday, going into the pool with the children, supervising them and teaching the younger children how to swim. I was also given the responsibility of assembly one week where I had to speak on the subject of perseverance and determination.
In addition to this, I assisted children with their homework in the hostel in the evenings. I mainly assisted with basic maths and the alphabet. I also participated in activities with the whole school such as the celebrations of Autism Day, Holi, Easter and the visit of the Attorney General to officially open the school’s IT suite. I was given the responsibility, as the IT teacher, to speak to the Attorney General about the school’s IT programme and how it could be improved.
What were your goals and did you achieve them?
In my application form I listed my main goal as gaining valuable insight into the cultures and lives of people in other countries in order to improve my knowledge and perspective of the world before going on to study International Politics in University in September. I feel this goal was achieved with my voluntary work in Fiji because I learnt about the culture there, not just that, it also taught me how two completely different cultures are now intertwined. Being in Lautoka city, I saw a lot of both the iTaukei and Indian cultures, how they have both been accepted and have now created a unique Fijian culture. I was made aware of the tensions, political and social, Fiji has dealt with in the past, and this insight can only be beneficial for my course.
Another of my goals was to gain greater independence in preparation for the future and University life. I feel I achieved this goal as I managed to find my way around a completely new place. I lived in a country with people I’d never met before arriving there, for three and a half months, which is a great achievement in my eyes as before volunteering in Fiji I found it very difficult to hold conversations with people I didn’t know. This has definitely prepared me for university as I hoped, as I will be meeting many new people there. I also believe I gained greater independence from the fact that my volunteering partner, Becky was visually impaired and needed extra assistance to find her way around, which I managed to provide. I managed to find my way around the town and work out where we had to go for the both of us as it was not possible for Becky to do this.
I also hoped my experience in Fiji would help my personal development and lead to a better understanding of myself, which it did. I now have a better understanding of what I want to gain from life, and what career I wish to follow.
My final goal was to give something back to the world. I know I am very fortunate to have had a good education that is ongoing, where many children in developing countries don’t have that same chance. My goal was to help at least one child with their education. I knew that even if just one child learned something from me that it would be worthwhile. I know very well that I achieved this goal, because I managed to teach every child how to use a computer. Before I started teaching there some of the children could not use a computer or even know what to use it for, however, when I left, every child in the school could use a computer for basic tasks.
One of my pupils in particular showed great improvements while I was volunteering there. A girl named Kaye with Down’s syndrome was unable to use a computer before I got there; in fact she found it very difficult to communicate and show any kind of emotion with people. However, I was able to show her how to use mouse and a computer. She can now use paint on the computer and also work out how to set it up. She even started showing emotion and smiling more after she learnt about the computers. Her class teacher said she had shown more improvement in the three and a half months I was there than in the whole of the previous school year! I definitely feel that I made a difference to the education of the students of Lautoka School for Special education through my IT lessons.
Would you volunteer overseas again?
I would absolutely love to volunteer with Lattitude again in the future; I had so much fun, a brilliant experience that I will never forget! I also feel quite content that I have actually made a difference to people’s lives and education. I couldn’t thank Lattitude more for the wonderful experience and support provided; I really hope to volunteer again someday!