My time volunteering
I was based in a business university to provide teacher training for the English lecturers which would ultimately lead to improved English provision at the university and better life chances for the students. Initially I focused on getting to know my colleagues and understanding what changes might be needed with the emphasis always on sustainability and viability. As well as providing teacher training, I also introduced a staff English class using more communicative approaches to learning (including elevensies and English breakfasts). I got involved with the university English Club and worked with the students to make learning English more fun. The final year students were encouraged and supported to run an English club for local children and also to write, produce and perform an end of year pantomime.
The impact of my placement
I consider one of my greatest achievements to be instilling enthusiasm for learning English into the heart of the English department. The university still holds an annual pantomime run by the English Club students 19 years after I left!
My unforgettable moments
Arriving in Indonesia in 1998, I found the country in the throes of one of the biggest economic and political changes in its history. 14 days into my placement, after months of increasing prices, petrol prices doubled overnight, students in Jakarta demonstrated and four were shot dead by the Army. The Programme Office phoned daily to check on me as although I was hundreds of miles away, I was based in the second city which carried the reputation for the battle which had ultimately led to the independence of Indonesia from the Dutch in 1945, and I remember asking if it was normal to have tanks parked outside of my university. Foreign embassies urged their citizens to leave but the British Embassy advice was to stay put. My parents were frantically calling me from the UK telling me to leave as they were watching violent TV news reports every night until I pointed out to them that they were being shown one incident in one street hundreds of miles from me on repeat to make it look like the riots were continuing. Ten days later President Suharto resigned after 32 years of authoritarian rule and I could focus on settling in to my placement!
One of my unforgettable moments was then seeing the excitement the following year surrounding the first truly democratic election in four decades.
The impact my placement has had on me
Volunteering opened my eyes to global advocacy and awareness through the work of all the volunteers I saw across Indonesia. I believe I became more environmentally and globally aware through living in a developing country and seeing the impact of inequality, pollution, deforestation and some of the negative impacts of multinational corporations working in the country. I worked for a while in VSO’s Global Education and Advocacy department. In my home and work life I have strived to raise awareness of global issues from starting a Fair Trade policy in one school where I worked to my own children taking the initiative to write to their local supermarket questioning their use of palm oil.