Timeline: 4 months, May - Aug 2017
Team: Grace Choi, Jessie Rodriguez
Role/ Skill: Team lead, project planning, teaching
The young students I met at Prem Sewa Boys School in Nagpur, India had dreams. Some wanted to move to North America upon graduation to find jobs they couldn't pursue in their hometowns and others didn't even see those opportunities as options.
The goal of this project was to plant big dreams in little people. By teaching young children to love learning English, our team wanted to lay down a foundation for the boys to pursue any opportunities that come their way in the future.
This project became more of a self-development project more than anything else. It became my story of how I became an opportunity seeking and passionate individual. I was able to practice real leadership skills out on the field, learn to improvise when things didn't go as planned and experience planning a self motivated project from scratch.
Spring of 2017 I had an opportunity to do some volunteer work in Nagpur, India. The work mainly consisted manual labor and entertaining the kids at the school. This resulted in an extended amount of time being spent talking and simply hanging out with the children.
After spending a lot of my time talking with different students from ages five all the way up to high school, I found that most of the professional jobs that these students aspired required a high degree of English proficiency.
Although many of the students tried their best to communicate in English with our foreign team of volunteers, there were a number of children who had no interest in trying to communicate in English and resorted to body language. Which was fine for our purpose at the time (to do some manual work for the school) but it got me thinking, if all the children at this school had an opportunity to be introduced to learning English in a fun and meaningful way, would this make a difference in their choice of professional career in their future?
Sparked as a response to the experience from my previous volunteer trip to India mentioned above, I challenged myself to come up with way to expose the boys at the school to English in a way that would motivate an interest in the language.
There were two main problems with this challenge:
Many students disliked learning English due to the redundant curriculum taught at school
Children don't have the attention span or the understanding to care about us talking to them about the importance or value of the skill
The solution my teammate Jessie and I came up with was to create a team of our own to revisit the same school, the same students we built a relationship with and conduct multiple tailored classes of their interests in English.
What we found, through our first visit, was that even the boys that were hesitant to come up to the foreigners due to the language barrier or resorted to body language, ended up making a effort to learn English phrases and to teach us phrases in Marathi due to the relationship we had built with them.
By creating tailored classes that focused on subjects that the young boys were interested in and researching the best in-class activities through which children learn, we were able to create meaningful relationships as well as plant interest in the English language in a fun way.
During the four months following our first trip to India and before our next trip, Jessie and I gathered a team of eight passionate high school students to get together and spread out the work of researching and tailoring separate classes for four different age groups as a team.
We spent a total of two weeks at the school and executed two classes each day. The rest of the time was spent getting to know even more students. Our hope, through this experience, was that students got an opportunity outside of their regular class to speak to native speakers and to learn more about subjects which interest them in English.
Looking back, this project was one that I never imagined myself taking into action. Through this experience I was able to learn valuable leadership, teamwork and planning skills but ultimately I found a new confidence in my ability to take an idea and creating something real.
This experience shaped me in to the person I am today. The impact the children had on my outlook on my goals and dreams, to take each and every new opportunity that comes my way, is what makes this story one that will never see an end.