Heloise Allan, Project Trust’s Head of Education, recently visited volunteers and projects in Chile with Felicity Morrow, Desk Officer. Heloise told us five things she’d learned from the trip:

What a day in the life of teaching assistants and social care volunteers is like:

In Chile many of the volunteers are teaching assistants, so visiting them allowed me to see them at work and to analyse how our pre-departure Training course can be adapted to suit their role. Being in Chile meant I could also see social care volunteers go about their day to day work and see how that might be accredited in terms of evidence for our One Awards Foundation Year in Global Voluntering and Citizenship.

There are exciting global citizenship sessions ahead:

The volunteers in Chile have some great plans for global citizenship sessions. There is a volunteer who is a really brilliant dancer, and she’s been doing zumba with some of the disabled adults she’s working with. She wants to mark International Dance Day (April 29) with a danceathon. It’s a great example of how volunteers in social care projects can run global citizenship events which benefit their projects and raise awareness. Last year was the first year we’d asked volunteers to mark Global Citizenship days, and the momentum is increasing. This year’s volunteers have all the great examples from last year as inspiration, so hopefully we’ll see this group of volunteers running even more great days.

Izzy, who's currently volunteering in Chile

Izzy, a social care volunteer in Chile

Volunteers and host families form strong bonds:

A lot of the volunteers in Chile live with host families. I think it’s an incredible experience for the volunteers: they gain a real insight into Chilean life, culture and individual beliefs which you wouldn’t experience to quite the same extent if you were staying in an apartment or flat. Up in Valparaiso there’s a family who have been hosting volunteers for several years now. We had a lovely dinner of Chilean stew with them and you could just see how much hosting meant to them. They genuinely loved the exchange of beliefs, of ideas, of language, and that each pair of volunteers was very different. Whilst we were having dinner a volunteer from last year was sending the family audio messages over Whatsapp in Spanish chatting away about what he’s doing now which the host father was proudly sharing with us. Apparently they are still in very regular contact with all of the volunteers they have hosted. It was really lovely to see the impact a host family has on volunteers, and the mutually beneficial relationship (and how much both the hosts and volunteers enjoy the experience).

Heloise visiting a school in Chile

Heloise visiting volunteers in a school in Chile

You always get a warm welcome at schools in Chile:

One thing that I absolutely loved about Chilean schools, and I’d love to bring back to the UK, was that there always seems to be music playing in the playground , so in breaks the kids are all dancing. Children in Chile are also very affectionate, so when you arrive at a school they all run up and hug you, greet you, kiss you on the cheek, and there’s a real warmth. Interestingly, having spoken to the head teachers of some of the schools, it can take a little while for the volunteers to adjust and adapt to that. By the time we visited the volunteers were obviously very at ease, but it is interesting hearing that sometimes at first their reserve can make them feels a bit uncomfortable.

You don’t need expensive facilities to get kids into music:

At one project we’d gathered together in the staffroom at break-time, suddenly the head teacher appeared and said: “We want to show you something.” They took us to the school hall and there was a marching band all dressed up and ready to perform. Suddenly loads of teachers and students appeared, and you could see how proud they were. The school isn’t in a particularly wealthy part of Chile, but they’d managed to put together a brilliant marching band that take part in regional competitions.