Hello! My name is Doireann and I was a short-term volunteer at CBS this August/September. My time in Cofradía couldn’t have been better. There were definitely hard parts (a moment of silence for the top layer of skin from my sunburned nose – gone but never forgotten) but I remember every night before I went to bed looking back over a great day and every morning I woke up looking forward to another one. By the time I had no more days in Cofradía to enjoy, I really felt like I had settled in, made close friends and acquired a real love for teaching the second and ninth graders.
Before I talk about the actual teaching I’ll mention all the concerns I had before coming so that anybody else considering going with these same fears can have some reassurance:
- Before spending time at CBS I was concerned about whether volunteering as a teacher would be an ethical decision. To anyone who is concerned by the criticisms volunteering abroad can be subjected to, I would say that to CBS they are not applicable. You deal directly with the school rather than any fee-driven volunteer agency and so by cutting out the middleman, and the fact that there is no volunteer fee, you can be sure that your time is sought for the right reasons. You also can genuinely be helpful and make a positive impact even if you can only go short term like I did – by taking classes temporarily while long-term volunteers are away or by providing resource to struggling students you will always be busy and productive. I also really liked the fact that the staff at CBS is a mix of English speaking volunteers and Honduran teachers working as a team, under Honduran leadership. I think this gives the kids a great experience – a chance to learn English through exposure to native speakers but importantly the preservation of Honduran culture and tradition in school. CBS is a very happy place for the kids, their families and all the staff and could be for you too as a volunteer!
- I was concerned about safety and the reputation Honduras has in that regard. In reality Cofradía felt safe at all times and I only had good experiences there. The fact that so many volunteers go back for a second, third or fourth trip is good evidence of how safe we feel there – my advice would be to be sensible and reasonable and not to dismiss the warnings out there about travelling to Honduras but at the same time definitely not to be afraid of travelling to Cofradía.
- Lastly, I was a little worried about travelling so far from home on my own and I thought maybe I would be lonely once I arrived. It was the complete opposite in reality – the volunteer team felt like a second family of kind, hilarious, caring people and if you go on your own to Cofradía like me and don’t leave with a load of new mates I owe you a tenner. Now back to the teaching! I was second grade’s teacher for my first two weeks until their permanent teacher Sophia arrived from Australia. At the start it was a little tough – the language barrier complicated things and the heat tired out the kids (and me!) by the end of the day but I was surprised at how fast things fell into place and teaching became fun and fulfilling. The kids were just great. I really liked teaching this age as by the time they reach seven all their personalities are defined and unique, and they are energetic and excited as well as very capable of concentrating. They are a bright and cheery bunch and I am very jealous of Sophia having them for the year! I then moved on to teaching grade nine and had a really great time with them too – their sense of humour paired with their motivation made for a fun and stimulating atmosphere in class. Even when I was sure my lesson plans would challenge them too much they always surprised me with how capable they were in terms of their English abilities and in general with the intelligence they showed in how they approached our class discussions. I wish them all the best in their last couple of years at school and in everything they’ll go on to do afterwards!
Hopefully this blog post has been encouraging to you if you are thinking about travelling to CBS. I am so happy to have been a part of this special community and am eager to go back to Cofradía as soon as I can… maybe I’ll see you there!