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Alison Klymchuk - Costa Rica Teaching

Although she may not want to become a teacher, Alison was very keen on taking part in a teaching project to spend time with children and make a difference in their lives. She went to Puerto Jimenez in Costa Rica and got to know a very laid-back and family orientated way of life. After finishing the project, she is sure this was not her last time volunteering.

Why did you choose this particular project?

I chose this particular project because I absolutely love working with kids. I figured that by assisting a class and even teaching a class on my own terms I'd be able to interact with children freely and really learn as much from them as they do from me. Even if I don't particularly want to be a teacher in the future, this project felt perfect for me because it gave me the chance to improve my communication and leadership skills which definitely will be of use to me in everyday life.

Which kind of work and activities did you do during your project?

During my project I got the chance to work both independently and with a teacher by my side. When I was working one-on-one with the students, I was helping them develop their oral communication, writing and reading skills in English. I used flash cards to do so as well as workbooks and different learning games. I often read to a class on my own and walked around the classroom helping the children while the teacher taught them.

How did the culture and people differ to home, and what were the locals like?

The culture in my particular location (Puerto Jimenez) was very laid-back and family oriented. Everyone knew everybody and whenever something was done, word went around quick. Everyone is very friendly and enjoys having conversations with any passerby. At the school that I taught (Corcovado school), it was very important that you did not discipline the children. In PJ, parents do not like it when their kids are ordered around and put in stressful situations. Since family is so important to them, they don't enjoy seeing their children getting hurt or offended in any way.

What was the accommodation like?

The accommodation was quite nice. Everything functioned with ease including the shower, the stove, etc. It was very cosy although when more than six people were living in the house, it got quite crowded.

What were the staff and other volunteers like?

My experience with the staff and other volunteers was exceptional! I love meeting new people and getting to meet new people from different countries was quite the experience. Everyone was very kind and ready to give a helping hand when needed. Nobody ever felt out of place (or at least I hope not) and we all got along within the group. As for the staff, they were very helpful and were able to answer all of my questions most of the time. It was a good mix of discipline and fun.

What was your most amazing moment or your best memory?

I've had too many memorable moments during my trip to only choose one. However, on my last day at school when I was all ready to leave, every child gave me a large group hug and that simply filled me with joy. Every single memory I shared with all of these children suddenly flooded my mind and warmed my heart. It was so bittersweet leaving that moment but it was one that was of great importance to me.

Do you feel the work you were doing was worthwhile?

I definitely do feel like the work I was doing was worthwhile. I was reminded everyday by the teacher I was working with that the kids absolutely love me and that I've helped them improve in many aspects. The children demonstrated visible improvement in reading and writing while I was around. I also got many comments from children's parents saying how much I've assisted overall and how thankful they are for having me teach their children better English.

What sort of wildlife did you encounter?

I was impressed at how much wildlife I saw in my area. The fauna and flora definitely amazed me. Around town a saw different species of monkeys including Howler monkeys, Spider monkeys and white-faced monkeys. I also saw a very large amount of Scarlet Macaws which were absolutely beautiful. I got the time to visit the Corcovado national park and La Tarde as well. There I got to see anteaters, sloths, different poison dart frogs, beautiful butterflies, crazy insects, turtles, crocodiles, crabs, fish, etc. Sadly, I didn't manage to see the locally-famous Tapir but I do hope to come back one day and see them.

What were you hoping to learn while on project, and have you achieved those goals?

While on the project, I was hoping to develop my communication skills (both English and Spanish) and learn to work independently. Overall, I believe I managed to succeed in both areas. When the time came, I was able to take matters into my own hands and work on my terms. Speaking to children everyday improved my communication skills and constantly being around locals really helped me improve my Spanish since I was forced to formulate sentences in a foreign language in order to get around.

Any tips and advice you might like to pass on to future volunteers?

All I can say to new volunteers is to come into this project with an open mind and heart. Nothing will ever be the way you expect it to be and you should always be ready for anything. I would also recommend to learn some basic Spanish prior to your trip so you can teach children with more ease and communicate easily with locals.

What do you have planned next?

For now, I'm still settling at home and taking in the experience I just lived through. However, I am planning to do some future volunteer trips very soon and possibly adopt an all-year camp job where I can work with children just like I did on project.

By Alison Klymchuk - Costa Rica Teaching

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