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Care in Bolivia by Marjorie Harris

Marjorie Harris

Age: 55

Cert Ed in Food and Technology, BEd Primary teaching and special needs, MEd in Management of schools

Worked in South America for over a year in educational roles. Marjorie worked on three projects, travelling to Peru and Bolivia, Argentina and Mexico, for 3 months in each destination, using her skills and experience in education to help schools and orphanages in disadvantaged areas. This is what she had to say about the project:

"In Peru I helped Tim develop his work with Primary teachers.  I took out Big Books to use and leave as samples which teachers can read with the children to help their vocabulary and imagery of story. I helped him to train the staff in making their books with their children and spoke to a training group in Cusco.  Overall I'm happy I got to use my skill to helps others"

The Project Partner

Rather than spending her time with a specific project partner, Marjorie experienced a slightly different form of peer to peer contact. Given her years of experience in education she was singled-out to work closely with our two of our Latin America country directors Tim DeWinter and Marco Munoz. Her brief was to make use of their contacts and local knowledge to assess standards of teaching being provided in local schools and orphanages. She was then able to provide guidance on new materials and teaching programmes to be implemented in order to help pupils, staff and volunteers alike. Both Tim and Marco were extremely grateful for her expert opinion and together they were able to greatly improve the work that is now performed by all of our volunteers in these destinations.

Role of the Volunteer

Marjorie’s role was slightly different in each destination, but her placements included the following tasks and responsibilities:

  • Analysing current teaching and social work placements in order to suggest ways to provide more varied and worthwhile work for our volunteers.
  • Working with staff in orphanages to demonstrate how to provide help with children’s’ homework and to teach them arts and crafts.
  • Designing a teaching programme for primary and secondary teaching volunteers, including recommended resources and guidance for helping pupils and staff improve their English.
  • Using Big Books to help primary teachers read with their pupils to improve their vocabulary and imagery of story.
  • Training staff to making their own books with their children for future use.
  • Speaking to a teacher training group.
  • Taking part in a trial programme allowing volunteers to work in a government hospital at the bedsides of children waiting treatment, providing them with simple games and craft ideas.

Benefits to the community

Marjorie’s work with various institutions in Latin America has helped to provide the following benefits to the local communities:

  • The teachers were trained in the use of Big Books and other modern teaching methodologies which will result in a long term improvement in the quality of English teaching.
  • As both pupils and staff improve their standard of written and spoken English, they gradually improve their chances of finding employment in the future.
  • The children were provided with the plenty of social interaction involving a different language and culture, helping them to develop as people.
  • The parents of children awaiting treatment in the government hospital were given peace of mind that there child was being taken care of during a potentially traumatic experience.

Cultural Exchange

Marjorie experienced a vast array of different cultures and attitudes to life, taking in four different countries in over nine months abroad. With much of her time spent working with children and staff in different schools, orphanages and hospitals, she was constantly asked to share stories about her family and explain what it is like to live in the UK. As an English speaker she was always in demand and was able to teach nursery rhymes and fun games to both pupils and staff while at the same time picking up some of the local language and customs.

Her host families were always appreciative of her willingness to both teach and learn; insisting that she teach them English cooking but also keen to pass on their own recipes for her to taste. It is this exchange of cultures and ideas that became one of Marjorie’s long-lasting memories from her time spent overseas. Unsurprisingly, she was often asked to help the host families’ children (and sometimes the host parents!) brush up on their English and this gave her a chance to use souvenirs and photographs of her life in the UK to not only help with their vocabulary, but also explain about the differences between Latin American and European life.

Marjorie Harris

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