The Teacher Training Adventure in Sierra Leone
Jo York joined Street Child in the Summer of 2017 for the Teacher Programme. Here’s what she found…
I came across the advert for Street Child’s Teacher Training Programme one evening when I was job hunting online. Obviously, it wasn't a job so I should have just shut the window and carried on with my search but there was something about it that intrigued me. I liked the idea of volunteering in a project that was about meeting people to share skills and ideas that could have a lasting impact, rather than turning up to build something or to look after kids for a couple of weeks and then never see them again. I was intrigued by the idea of travelling to Sierra Leone too. To be honest I had to Google where it was, but once I had I thought, why not? If nothing else, it was bound to be interesting to go there.
I had a phone call with one of the Street Child staff a few weeks later and that's when my preparation for the trip started in earnest. Initially I was definitely most nervous about fundraising for Street Child before the trip. Being a semi-enthusiastic runner I decided to do a half marathon to raise funds but I felt uncomfortable at the thought of asking people for money. In retrospect, I needn't have been. I guess my friends and family are far more generous than I gave them credit for! I was actually quite touching to see how generous some people were.
Most of the other volunteers attended an induction day together in London, but unfortunately I hadn’t been able to go and meet everyone. So, suitcase bulging with mosquito repellant, I set off alone for the airport, and boarded the plane to Sierra Leone full of nerves about what I would encounter at the other end.
Being in Sierra Leone was quite an intense experience. I very quickly came to appreciate the four other volunteers that were there and all of the Street Child staff. Spending time in an environment that was so different to what I'm used to was challenging, hilarious and always interesting, and I really appreciated having such a nice group of people to share it with. In the most challenging moments, which for me involved the biggest spider I’ve ever seen and two huge cockroaches in my bedroom, there was always someone there to help (a.k.a kill the cockroaches) and to laugh about it with after.
My group took part in two training sessions in different parts of Sierra Leone. One of the benefits of this was that we got to travel around the country, drive through beautiful scenery and meet loads of different people. The training itself was fascinating to be a part of. I really valued the opportunity to talk to the teachers there and to see how they handle challenges both familiar and strange. I left feeling like I had learned a lot from all of the teachers I met, and hoping that the ideas I had shared with them would be useful.
My advice to anyone considering doing Street Child’s Teacher Training Programme would be to go for it. For me it was an eye-opening experience. I grew more attached to Sierra Leone and it’s friendly people than I imagined. I learned more than I taught. I have fond memories of walking through the busy town centre of Makeni, noisy at all hours of the day, children shouting and waving whenever they saw us, overwhelmed on my first day and quite at home 14 days later. And, now, if I see a laughably small European cockroach or spider, I can deal with it myself.
If you’re a teacher, and interested in joining us on the Teacher Training Programme in Sierra Leone or Liberia, get in touch and we’ll get in touch with more information.