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Things I never thought would be possible

Mary Sugrue from Limerick is volunteering as a methodology and resources adviser in the western province of Rwanda. We asked her to tell us a bit about her placement, including some things she never thought would be possible a year ago.

I never ever imagined that I would ever like running in the morning. Back home in Ireland I would grudgingly pull on my runners in the evenings sometimes and plod along the pavement in semi-darkness looking at the people sitting in their cars in yet another traffic jam. That was just over six months ago.

I am working in the western province of Rwanda near Lake Kivu, where I work as a methodology and resources adviser for VSO Rwanda in a teacher training college (TTC). Now I find myself running along unpaved roads just as the sunrises, surrounded by banana trees, green hills and people busily on their way to the market.

My typical day

A typical day (if there is such a thing) is different for all education volunteers, and I am no exception. Most mornings, however, I leave my house at 7am and walk to the local primary schools where I help observe student teachers on teaching practice. After teaching practice I walk back to the TTC, and open up the teachers’ resource centre. I teach Senior 4, 5 and 6, and have 484 students in total. Senior 6 are the eldest students in the TTC and in their last year of upper secondary school. At the end of October they will be either leaving to become primary school teachers or they may go on to further education.

Part of my role here is to work with the TTC tutors to ensure that the teacher resource centre is operational and has sufficient resources, I spent my first few weeks clearing out an old classroom, ordering furniture and sorting through lots of resources. I also work with the students' teachers on how to implement active and child-centred methods into their teaching practice, including basic methodology and resource making. My work is interesting and rewarding and I look forward to going to work each day. I had always wanted to work overseas and work with people who have not had the opportunity to receive much training and guidance with their career.

Special opportunities

During term holidays we work on other VSO education projects and areas of interest. I have had opportunities that I would never had back home, for example working on curriculum development at a national level, developing a teaching and resource-making course for pre-service teachers and in our spare time a number of Irish volunteers got together and organised a St Patrick’s Day party in Kigali. I’m looking forward to the next set of experiences that being an education volunteer brings.

I'll leave with a short summary about the things I do now that I never thought would be possible a year ago...

  • I can live without a fridge
  • I stock pile water in buckets, bins and basins in case the water goes off
  • I keep candles and a torch at the ready for power cuts
  • I cook on a charcoal stove if the power goes off
  • I frequently spend half an hour waiting for one email to load
  • I consider buying a motor bike most days – and someday I will!

There are days when I have no electricity, no phone credit or charge in my phone battery. And while I always knew this, I really know now, how much my family, friends and loved ones mean to me.

Volunteering opportunities with VSO Ireland

If you're interested in volunteering overseas, check out our recent vacancies here.

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