Claire Moynihan is from Cobh, County Cork in Ireland. She currently works as a primary school teacher in Dubai where she has lived for the past 2 years. She enjoys most outdoor activities including running, playing football and swimming and she is part of a Ladies gaelic football team in Dubai. One of the best outdoor experiences for her was climbing Kilimanjaro during her recent trip to Tanzania, where she volunteered at an orphanage in Arusha with Volunteering Solutions.
Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Volunteering Solutions in Tanzania?
It is something I have always wanted to do and was in my head for a long time. I am lucky enough to have a career in teaching with significant time off during the summer holidays which allows me to think about doing these worthwhile things!
Tanzania was my choice because while I was there I intended to raise money for the orphanage that I would be based by climbing Kilimanjaro. I thought that this would be something people would like to sponsor me to do. I had a browse through Volunteering Solutions' Facebook page and read some testimonials and booked my place!
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
I would arrive every morning at 9am and I was based in the "baby class". I was free to go to any class I wanted (there were 4 in total) but I spent the majority of time in the younger class as I have most teaching experience with this age group. The first few days I mainly helped the teacher with corrections, homework setting and sitting with specific children who were struggling.
The 2nd week she asked me to teach English and math to the kids so that was a great experience. At 10:30am the kids would have tea and bread and play outside for 20 mins. The volunteers were free to play with them using any equipment available like a football or skipping rope, or simply just sit and talk to them.
Class would resume at 11am until 1pm for the baby class. Math was usually done in the morning and English at this time. Lunch was between 1pm and 2pm. As volunteers, you are free to go at this time but I usually stayed until 3pm. At 2 until 3 the older kids would have reading groups while the younger kids had nap time. I enjoyed this time of the day as it was more laid back and I got to help the older kids in any areas they felt they wanted help. Usually they would come to me and ask for help.
What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special?
Simply put....the children made it unique and special. They were the most appreciative, inspiring kids I have ever worked with or had the pleasure of knowing. Their manners, sense of respect and excellent behaviour and listening skills just astounded me. The centre was excellently run by brilliant, good hearted people who genuinely cared for the well being of the children and you could see how they instilled a sense of community among the children. All the children looked out for each other and they were a family in every sense of the word! It was amazing to see and be a part of.
How has this experience impacted your future? (Personally, professionally, etc.)
Personally, it can't but teach you about the value and the importance of life. You fast come to the realization there that the things that we class as "worries" in the Western world hold no weight in their world! I would like to say that in the future I will value the simple things in life more than I have been, for example, food, clean water, clothes, warm bed! It taught me above all to smile! If these people can do it day in day out with all the adversities they face in their lives, then we can do it with all the comforts, perks and luxuries the Western culture has to offer.
Professionally, it made me more aware of international issues and the importance of education in creating a better future for everyone. These kids know at an early age that a good education is their only way out of poverty, I would like to do further education, possible a masters course, on the social and political structure of developing countries and learn more about world poverty and how and why it happens.
It is also important, I think, to bring these issues into the lives of children the world over. As a teacher, I would like to bring a little of this into my classroom and make them aware that poverty exists on a global scale, especially with children in Dubai who are massively privileged in comparison to the children in Africa.