Before I joined the volunteering expedition, I was most excited about learning to dive, learning about the coral reef, and then collecting data for scientific research. Being passionate about the ocean and the environment, this ticked a lot of boxes for me. It wasn’t easy to find the right charity to work with, as so many volunteering and working abroad opportunities involve teaching English, and I have never (ever) had any aspiration to be a teacher.
I did know, when signing up with Blue Ventures, that they taught English to their local staff, and that part of our duties would involves helping out in the classes. I thought this sounded minor, and probably something I could handle. Well, talk about being thrown in the deep end. I had assumed we would be assisting a teacher, but no, we were to be the teachers. None of us had any teaching experience, so the Blue Ventures staff that did speak English helped us out and briefed us on what they had already studied. I was petrified but decided there was nothing I could do about it, they were here to learn so I would do my best.
Between four of us volunteers, we split the students into small groups of different levels. For the first lesson, I got put with two Malagasies who’s English was advanced. I am surprised to say that I loved the lesson. The two men were able to hold a conversation and ask me questions, and I was able to teach them new words along the way. What they wanted to know about me and my culture was really interesting and I enjoyed learning more about their backgrounds. They asked me what I had studied, why I decided to come to Madagascar, and why people in my country have so few children.
The lesson was far from being structured, but it was a start. At one point I realised I was teaching them the words for skiing and snow. Maybe that shouldn’t have been a priority. In Andavadoaka the temperature never went below 28°C. In my defence, we were talking about our favourite sports. They seemed to enjoy the calss, and they came back the next week.
In the meantime I had my own lesson in Malagasy, I can now introduce myself, even if I can’t talk about skiing yet.