As a Chile Volunteer you will be truly immersed in Chilean life. You’ll spend your days at school and your evenings experiencing family life at your host family home.
Chile, with its narrow landmass bordered by mountains on one side and the ocean on the other stretches from arid, moonscape desert in the North to glacial wilderness in the South. Chileans are patriotic and hospitable people who love to share their culture with foreigners. Family life in Latin cultures is much more close-knit than in Northern Europe and you might find that people are quite surprised that someone as young as you will be spending a year so far away from their family. As a result they will want to make sure you are well looked after.
Politically, Chile is stable after its transition to democratic rule in 1991, although the recent Pinochet government has demonstrated that the social and political divides in the country are still significant. Chile is enjoying sustained economic growth largely through industries such as copper, timber, wine and fruit. Helped by its geographical shape, communication is easy and reliable and it is a very safe country to travel in.
As a Volunteer in Chile you will live in or close to Santiago de Chile, the capital city. Most of the projects are located in the poorer suburbs and barrios of Santiago. You will be living with a local family in their home, eating meals with them and often spending time with them at weekends. For Chileans, family is hugely important and you will be integrated fully in their customs and life, attending BBQs, birthday parties and football matches. Though you and your partner will have your own room, you will eat your breakfasts and evening ‘Once’ with the family.
You’ll get to know Santiago and its network of subways and buses well as you travel between the modern, urban centre out to the quieter areas, nestling in the base of the mountains. At weekends there is plenty to explore, though you might find yourself doing things with the family, or your fellow teachers.
Our projects in Chile are based in Santiago, or just outside in the Maipo valley. The schools you will volunteer in teach children from a range of backgrounds and the schools themselves tend to be funded by external charities. This ensures that though the students may not have access to a wealth of resources at home, at school their provisions are fairly good.
Your role is to work with the English department as an English Language assistant. You’ll spend your days working in the classroom with different teachers and year group, or helping the department to ensure English is engaged with throughout the school. You may work with small groups of students who are struggling, or take parts of the lesson, lending your native accent to develop English fluency.
A teacher’s day in Chile can be fraught with teaching, planning and marking. You are there to help that department achieve all it can. This requires initiative. Perhaps you’ll use practical skills in music or art to enhance a class activity; or maybe you’ll be able to think creatively about how a certain topic could be taught.
In the classroom you’ll have to be responsible, keeping an eye out for those who are disengaged – helping with classroom management or bringing on the students who need to be further challenged. You will probably be involved in after school clubs for English development, where you will work with students on fun activities that increase their excitement for learning the language.
Whatever the opportunity, it will be down to you to be proactive about seizing it. You’ll need to be able to communicate with the department and this will help you build relationships with other teachers.
Living with a host will give you a unique opportunity to be part of a Chilean family. You’ll gain insight into current culture through the relationships that you build with your Host Mother and Father; your host sisters and brothers and perhaps children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces and grandparents. Not much English will be spoken in these family homes so it will be in at the deep end for your Spanish!
With a long summer holiday you’ll have the opportunity to travel. Chile itself is geographically spectacular, with endless national parks and glaciers in the south and dry deserts in the north. And just on the other side of the border is Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and even further afield to satisfy your wanderlust at the end of the school term.
Rosie Macgill | India 07/08Country Coordinator for Chile
Rosie is a Returned Volunteer (India 07/08) who adventured with a backpack through South America as a graduate and fell in love with the Latino culture and approach to life. She first travelled in Chile in 2013, and has been visiting projects since 2015, each time welcomed back into the homes of host families as an old friend.