The business of teaching English as a second language has grown drastically over the last several decades, and even though it may not be as lucrative an industry as it was several years ago, the sheer number of English teachers has continued to increase. With this increase there has also been a rise in volunteer efforts by native and fluent speakers, especially to undeveloped and third- world areas where knowledge of English can open the door for much- needed economic opportunities. This increase in volunteerism has not only benefited students, but teachers, nations, and humanity in general. Three examples of interesting, excellent volunteer teaching programs are the Peace Corps, I-to-I, and, for those who want to live on top of the world ? Volunteer Nepal Himalaya.
Volunteer Nepal Himalaya offers participants a unique opportunity to teach English in a village school in the Himalayas and live as a family member in a local home-stay. Volunteers are immersed into Nepali culture after a short amount of language and cultural education during orientation. It is a challenging lifestyle that requires six-hour workdays six times per week, and although it actually costs money to volunteer ($1000 for teacher training and transition assistance), the rewards are still well worth it. Few other opportunities allow a westerner to experience immersion in a society with such an amazing backdrop. (3)
If a region such as Nepal isn?t a good fit for a volunteer, perhaps a company such as I-to-I would be more helpful. I-to-I is a company that helps over 5,000 teaching volunteers each year find worthwhile projects in 23 different countries, and has trained over 15,000 people to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL). The company touts itself as a seller of ?life-changing experiences,? and has offices in the UK, USA, Ireland, and Australia. It is an excellent catalyst for teaching volunteerism for those who live in English-speaking countries. (1)
?You give and you get.? This is the motto of the Peace Corps, perhaps the greatest volunteer opportunity that is available for Americans. The Peace Corps traces its roots to 1960, when President Kennedy challenged university students to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing nations. Since then more than 182,000 volunteers have served in 138 different host countries. Thirty-four percent of these volunteers work as ESL teachers. This program has continued to foster a positive image of America throughout the world ? something that is definitely needed in this day and age ? and has helped unite host countries with their English-speaking counterparts. It also benefits the volunteers in a variety of different ways. Participants are given a living allowance that enables them to live in a manner similar to the local people in the community. They are also given medical and dental care, as well as free transportation to and from the country of service. Student loan deferment is just one of many educational benefits, and participants are trained in the host country?s foreign language throughout the duration of service. It is an excellent stepping stone to a graduate school program, and volunteers are even given a $6000 transition allowance upon completion of their service. It is a fantastic opportunity for prospective American teachers to gain a broader understanding of the world that surrounds them. (2)
Looking at this topic critically, maybe the word volunteer is an improper term for volunteer teaching in the modern sense. There are dozens of egoistic reasons for ?volunteering.? The lines between being a professional and a volunteer are blurred, for in fact we are all working towards achieving some objective in the end ? be it a healthy salary, the opportunity to experience a foreign culture, or the chance at fostering world peace. Regardless, it?s unfair to label volunteers as those who sacrifice their time and energy for little in return. For many the rewards are well-worth the sacrifice of a traditional professional salary.
2.Peace Corps: www.peacecorps.com
3.Volunteer Nepal Himalaya: http://www.hec.org/volunteering/teaching
Author: Matthew Morgan
Date of post: 2006-11-20