First days teaching Kindergarten in Bali

Well whoever thinks teaching little kids is easier than older is sadly mistaken. Wow! It has been only 3 mornings in the classroom and I am shattered!

My first morning I took a backseat and watched to see how things went in the classroom, with less than 1.5 hours of actual teaching this would be a walk in the park. But discovering the kids (aged between 3 and 6) speak very little English and are still learning to write the basics in Indonesian, my planned thoughts of teaching them some basic poetry like I did in Nepal had to be thrown out the window (see I really haven’t taught kids this young English before).

Working hard

After three days teaching youngsters I have learnt it is all about songs, poems, rhymes, games and lots of colour and drawings. And rather a lot of repetition. I have just finished day three and am just about in the swing of things. Sadly the school closes for holidays next week so I only have a couple of days left, but hopefully I will have left them with a few more songs to sing each day and memories of a crazy English girl dancing like a madwoman in the middle of class.

The kids are adorable, their inquisitive looks and eagerness to please can’t help but put a constant smile on your face in the classroom.

Below are the basics of the lessons I did with the children. These are for children who are beginners to English. For ideas for more advanced English learners see my Nepal post.

Lesson 1 – Family

I started with showing them pictures of my family to help them understand, plus photos of life back home will always interest and entertain.

I got the children to repeat each word several times (focusing on the basics, mother, father, brother, sister and me) as I held up the photos.

*speak slowly so they can get the pronunciation right and even repeating 10+ times isn’t too much*

I then drew ‘amazing’ art work (stick figures) on the board and labelled in both Indonesian and English and asked them to copy in their book.

NB: I had a teacher who was translating instructions for the children, if you are alone and don’t speak the language things will have to be even slower and clear instructions shown.

After break I repeated the words we had learnt and then it was song time! I couldn’t think of any that had all family names in it so opted for the Barney song ‘I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family’ which on day three they have almost got the hang of, but still we sing together a couple of times each day.

Day 2 – Body Parts

They already knew the song ‘head, shoulders knees and toes…’ so I used this to expand on other body parts and have a bit of fun.

Sticking sheets of paper together to make one giant sheet (you could just find a giant sheet of paper) I got one of the children to lie down as I drew around him. I then got the class to take it turns to draw on a different body part as I shouted them out ie. Eyes and they draw on the eyes. I expanded beyond those in the song to include a few more, fingers, feet etc. *Thanks to SL Volunteers for this suggestion.

Body Parts

Next they drew the person in their book, with labels. (some of the younger kids just drew the picture as labelling was a bit much).

Then we sang ‘head, shoulder, knees and toes’ a few more times, but with leaving out one of the words each round. E.g. *silence* shoulders, knees and toes

Day 3 – Numbers

Most of the children already knew numbers 1-10 and depending on their knowledge you can change these games to include bigger numbers.

  • Great song for learning numbers 
  • Stand in a circle and count around the circle, as high as the children can manage, get louder, faster, slower, quieter etc.
  • Put music on and get the children to dance, when the music stops shout out a number and they have to get into groups of that number
  • Shout out a number and they have to jump that many times, counting as they jump

Counting in a circle

After the number games they each wrote the numbers, the English word and smily faces for that number in their book. E.g 1, One, 🙂

It has been a fun few days and I look forward to some sports games and Christmas decoration making before I leave.

I am currently volunteering with The Bali Children’s Project (BCP). If you are interested in volunteering with them follow the link or feel free to contact me with questions. More information on BCP coming soon.

Dancing time

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Confessions of a Volunteer Addict

Forgive me all for I have sinned … it has been over 2 months since I last volunteered!

This has to be a record and as a supposed volunteer addict I feel guilty, lazy and miserable!

Life without volunteering is like travelling without a backpack, like being in a desert without water, site-seeing without a camera… all experiences no one should EVER go through.

I have been wondering what these feelings of longing have been and it finally hit me yesterday when I got an email from a friend in Nepal asking me to look over some fundraising proposals and charity strategies. The feelings of excitement, elation, relief overwhelmed me and I realised this is what has been wrong … I had been missing, needing, craving volunteering

And so I hear by make a pact … NEVER to go so long without volunteering again and I ask you guys to hold me to this!

The last volunteering I did was 2 weeks in Sadhana Forest in East India at the end of August, a blog that is also waiting to be written, but on its way. Since then I have been back in England for 6 weeks, catching up with friends and family, eating my favourite foods and enjoying the luxuries of washing machines and duvets. For the last three weeks I have been back on the road travelling across Sri Lanka. I had been hoping to volunteer for two weeks for SL Volunteers, a brilliant charity supporting disabled children in Sri Lanka… sadly they were full and it didn’t work out. I recommend you take a look though if you are interested in volunteering in Sri Lanka, just plan a bit more in advance than I did 🙂

I had known volunteering for short periods of time without paying crazy amounts would be tough, but it’s REALLY tough! But I will not give up … an addict will do anything to get their next fix and so the search continues.

As I write this I am on a plane to my next destination of Malaysia, where I will be joining a boat for a few weeks to sail up the Western coast to Thailand. I am imagining that volunteering while at sea is going to make things extra tough so I have decided to focus my energy on virtual volunteering until I am on dry land again with a few more contacts and projects to seek out.

So readers … if you know of any charities that need some virtual volunteers, to write, edit, comment, evaluate, strategize or anything else I can do from my laptop and wifi dongle then please get in touch.

If you are having similar pangs of longing then check out this new campaign I have seen being advertised a lot on twitter recently … Give an Hour!

Until next time folks!

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£10million fund for Innovation – Is this what we need?

Today the Cabinet Office has announced a new £10 million fund to help increase volunteering and charitable giving.

The fund focuses on new technologies and networks that make it easier for people to help each other. All part of the Big Society that everyone has been intrigued, sceptical and occasionally excited about. The money hopes to help people find out about more opportunities and make it easier for them to give up their time or money for charitable causes and in turn increase the action behind this Big Society they keep talking about.

The first round of the fund is split into two sections.

  • Approximately 20 pots of up to £50,000 for organisations to back new innovations to potentially engage hundreds of thousands of people over time
  •  Around 15 pots of £50,000 to £150,000 for projects that have proven track records and have the potential to be scaled, replicated or adapted to increase impact.

All applications must take note of the five main criteria; impact, innovation, sustainability, openness and capacity and be focused on ‘increasing giving and exchange of time, assets, skills, resources and money in England.’

Check out the call for ideas for further information. Deadline for submissions October 14th

So is this what we need? Are the Government doing the third sector proud? 

Well it is better than a poke in they eye with a sharp stick or so the saying goes, but is more innovation what the sector needs right now?

Yet again charities will be changing and moulding their current projects to try and make them fit into what the funding says they should be fitting into, rather than being able to fund already successful projects. The many charities, community projects and local groups that have lost their funding to cover basic roles won’t be back in action and instead perhaps a new set of charities will emerge that will then go under again in a few years time when this splash of funding runs out?

Will these ‘new’, ‘innovative’ projects not just be reinventing the wheel anyway, putting a new name, writing new project descriptions and buying new stationary for a project that was running swell last year but then ran out of funding got thrown in the bin, only to picked back up again next year spending half the time and money doing what someone else already did?

I support innovation don’t get me wrong and I am sure some inspirational projects will come out of this, but is it the best way to spend £10 million?

There will soon be more information announced on the £24 million Social Impact Fund, fingers crossed for something useful, needed and not just reinventing the wheel.

Find more information about the new funding here:

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The super local stuff matters too – Big Society in Action?

I have just got back from the Crescent owners community meeting. A small meeting of residents of the crescent building in an English seaside town my family’s apartment is in. Dad said I should come along and take interest in the local area around home. I was less than enthused let me tell you, I had an exciting night of movie watching and ice cream eating ahead of me and he was taking it away from me. But I went along, more out of intrigue than anything else, oh and he promised me a pint in the hotel it was being held in after.

The turnout was apparently the biggest yet, with 23 residents in a small meeting room. The main order of the day was discussing what the council was doing with the derelict building across the garden from the crescent building (the crescent consists of two buildings shaped like a crescent each with a number of privately owned apartments in, with a shared oval garden in front). Rumours had surfaced that they were thinking of selling off the public land and walkway surrounding it to make it a more enticing purchase for a private buyer. This did not go down well, the residents complained this was a daily place they walked their dogs, headed down to the beach and the trees were hundreds of years old and should not have the chance of being cut down for future buildings. All valid excuses, a historical and cultural part of the town that should be looked after.

Discussions went on to discuss antisocial behaviour of drunks in the garden, leaving glass bottles and sleeping rough, of the still unfixed potholes, litter being left in the garden from a local language school and the need to repaint the very intricate Victorian railings surrounding the garden.

I thought I would be bored senseless but I found myself pulled into the meeting and wondering just what I could do to help in the few weeks I am back in England. At first sight this isn’t really volunteering, but a bunch of elderly or middle aged residents complaining about the ‘outsiders’ who were using the area surrounding their homes to litter, drink and be a general nuisance or to complain about what little the council were doing for the area.

However I found the residents to be very reasonable and thought well if everybody took this much pride, time and care into the area surrounding their home wouldn’t our country be a much better place? If everyone cared about the litter outside the house, the drunk kids shouting in the streets in the early hours of the morning, the chance of an old park being chopped down and turned into a car park or office buildings would we live in a happier, friendlier, caring country?

Is THIS the Big Society we all wonder about in action?

Maybe it is maybe it isn’t. Either way I urge you all to think about the area your home is in and think just what YOU could do to improve it? Spend a Sunday afternoon painting that shabby old park bench or clearing up the litter on your pavement? Or perhaps reporting drunk people to the police to be helped and supported on to better things?

Whatever it is a small amount of action by all of us can make big changes! Volunteering is everywhere!

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The addiction begins…

My first real volunteering experience was in New Jersey, USA. I was studying for a year at The Lawrenceville School thanks to a scholarship from the English Speaking Union. As part of my credits to graduate I had to undertake 20 hours of community service. I signed up to volunteer at a big primary (elementary) school in Trenton and was to help out with classes for 2 hours every week for 10 weeks  I was put in a classroom with 40+ five and six year olds with one teacher trying to teach them the times tables. Once I walked in the kids had more interest in playing with my hair, asking me questions about England and laughing at my accent and pronunciations. Very little teaching seemed to be going on.

Now I am not normally a kid kind of person, their constant tugging and questioning and crying and shouting can sent me nuts… but there is something about children I volunteer with, perhaps they are less ‘spoilt brat’ like than the kids I am used to seeing near home. I loved each and every one of them and I could have quite happily let each of them braid my hair and give me hugs all day long, However I knew I was there to help teach and their education would be what would help them in the world, not necessarily their braiding and hugging experiences. (though good hugging is an important skill that all should have!:))

By the end of my first day I had already signed myself up to volunteer at a local soup kitchen too, it was a brilliant way to see different sides of America, meet new interesting people and get off the campus I lived on once in a while, into the real world.

I thank The Lawrenceville School and The English Speaking Union for the opportunity to study in the USA and start my addiction with volunteering. Without the ‘forced’ community service perhaps my life would have taken another turn and I would have continued on my path to become a Barrister and never realised the laughs, lessons and memories I was missing out on.

Sadly I have no photos of my time volunteering in Trenton, but you can see photos of my teaching at a school in Nepal.

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When all doesn’t go to plan…

I had a perfect volunteer placement sorted, my flights were booked and I had excitedly told all my family and friends all about it. But it fell through, didn’t happen! 🙁

This is the problem with doing everything ‘off the hoof’, you always have to be weary that things might not go as planned… well if you are doing things last minute there probably wasn’t much of a plan anyway.

My perfect volunteer placement was organised through someone who put me in touch from London, who I then met with in Kolkata, who then invited me to volunteer with them for a month, helping to set up a new international volunteer scheme, looking at recruitment, the volunteer programme and a volunteer handbook. I was very excited! This was just what I was after.

It was agreed that I would start 3 weeks later, my expenses would be covered (accommodation, food and travel to and from the accommodation each day). The only thing they wouldn’t cover was my transport to and from Kolkata as I was only volunteering for 4 weeks rather than the usual 8 … but that was ok as I didn’t have far to come as was already in India.

So I trotted off on my travels around North India for 3 weeks, booked my flights to start in Kolkata in mid July and awaited information on my airport pick up.


Disaster loomed…

Less than a week before I was due to start I got an email entitled ‘URGENT’ It stated that the big boss had returned from America and said there was a) no room at their volunteer accommodation and b) the volunteer scheme I was to be setting up would be taking a back seat until 2012.


Is this bad practice? Well it isn’t the best way to go about things! My contact should have probably checked with the ‘big boss’ before allowing me to book my flights and change my plans, but then at the same time I was ONLY a volunteer?!? … it’s not like I signed a contract or anything and it wasn’t through any kind of formal scheme.

So perfect volunteering might sometimes be too good to be true, often with anything if it seems to good to be true it probably is and you should always be weary of volunteer placements abroad, how they will look after you and giving over money without any confirmation.

Luckily mine wasn’t anything I was paying for and I am certain it was an honest mistake and last minute change of plans that couldn’t be helped. Maybe I can come back in 2012 and help with the project.

But for now … keep a close eye on all your volunteer placements, check, double check and check again, ask lots of questions … but most of all stay positive and persevere! Where your help is needed you are sure to shine through and volunteer as you hope to.

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One day, 6 girls and 500 pictures – An alternative way of volunteering

Staying in a small hotel in Pokara, Nepal we made friends with the young girls who lived there. Four girls aged between 4 and 16 danced with us, took our photos, laughed with us, told us off for our messy bedrooms and slightly more sadly checked us into our room, cleaned the rooms and washed our clothes. Even the 4 year old helped out cleaning the hotel and cooking the family meals.

Me and the girls half way up to the Peace Pagoda

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One week at the Gange School, Nepal and sooo many memories

‘Thank you mam for teaching us’ – this is how the children from the Gange School start and finish every lesson. Can you imagine students in England saying this? I certainly can’t. One thing is clear, these children want to learn and are appreciative of anyone who teaches them. Yes they giggle, talk over you and shout across the room, but that is all part of their excitement, never did I hear them moan or groan about the work they were doing.

Working hard

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Teaching English as a Foreign Language – Top Tips and Lesson Plans

Top Tips

  • Be prepared to just be given a class and told to teach … anything! Have a few tricks up your sleeve/lesson plans from day one.
  • They are interested in learning about your country, your family, your life back home. Bring photos and don’t worry if you think it is not a proper lesson they are probably learning a lot!
  • Show them whose boss! Don’t revert to the stick or ear pinching (still very common in Nepal) but do try and state your authority or they will giggle and chat the whole way through.
  • Don’t assume anything, normal practice from home is not necessarily going to be normal practice in another country. In England children put their hand up to ask a question, this didn’t seem common practice in the school I was teaching in.
  • My kids gave me gifts almost every morning, fruit, flowers, chocolates. I felt bad accepting but graciously accepted and then made sure I treated them all to something at the end of the week to say goodbye and thank you.
  • HAVE FUN. The kids will no doubt be really excited to have you in the class, so stay positive and enjoy, whatever you talk to them about, teach them they are sure to be learning something new and will love the experience of having a foreigner in the class.

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Want to be a Trustee?

My favourite charity is recruiting for a new trustee!

Find out my thoughts on being a trustee in this podcast for KnowHowNonProfit

The Young Achievers Trust

Young Achievers Trust has an exciting opportunity to join its Board of Trustees as part of the Programme and Support Team! Continue reading

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