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“My Volunteer Teaching Experience in Rwanda, May 2012”

Our next scheduled volunteer trip to Rwanda is scheduled for May 23, 2014. Please read this article, the Summer 2012 Newsletter, and the Summer 2010 Newsletter for information from past trips. 

I traveled to Rwanda in May with the group INSPIRE!africa. The highlight of the trip was teaching English to orphans at the Rwanda Multi-Learning Center.

With a huge sense of anticipation my teaching partner Diane and I stood in front of a class of fifteen wide-eyed beginner students (they had started learning English in January). I was feeling very unsure if I was ready for this challenge. My palms were sweaty, my mouth was dry, and three hours of teaching expectant students lay ahead of us. We learned our students’ names and then had conversation about months of the year, seasons, different animals found in Canada and Rwanda, and opposites. I received a few chuckles as I tried to draw mountains with snow and a stick person on skis. We made it through the class but three hours felt like a very long time!

As the week went on I became more eager about lesson planning, creative ideas, and couldn’t wait for the next class to start. The students were opening up, laughing, and I was very impressed with their knowledge and willingness to try. I was excited and could feel the sense of trust being built. We asked the class questions such as; “How do you think English will help you with your future?”, “What is an adjective that describes yourself?”, and “What is a job you would eventually like to have?"

Some highlights of our teaching included asking students to recite a tongue twister that was written on the blackboard but actually hearing their own creations recited to the class, asking the class to write a personal motto and hearing some very heartfelt creations, imaginative sentences using nouns, verbs, and adjectives, and the “word game”. We put dashes on the blackboard to represent a word and asked the students to guess the letters. The class was very apprehensive to start but as they caught on we were quite thrilled to see the excitement and smiles on their faces as they figured out what the word actually was.

We finished our last day of classes with the word game. The first word was “success” and we wished our students much success with their studies and their future. The second word was “opportunity” – we thanked the class for the opportunity of getting to know them a little bit better and explained how doing well in their classes would provide opportunities for their future. Finally the phrase, “We will never forget you!” Smiles and applause erupted along with a few tears.

I was hoping to teach the students a few memorable ideas to keep with them and was truly overwhelmed by how much I ended up learning during this time - about being willing to try something new, gratitude, resilience, gaining trust, determination, and using humour to help with learning. I also experienced the most heartfelt and wonderful hugs in the world. Thank-you so much Rwanda Multi-Learning Center for the incredible experience, I will never forget you!

- Pamela Romanchuk