Volunteer With World Teach in Chile
The Rewards of Volunteering Outweigh the Costs
There are many reasons to participate in a service activity abroad. The rewards far outweigh the money that one may receive in other kinds of work.
A service opportunity is a good first step toward an international career. Many businesses and organizations look for people with a history of living abroad or the ability to speak more than one language. A service
program is a great way to gain these experiences and begin networking. It also demonstrates a commitment to volunteerism and philanthropy, something many employers find desirable.
When my husband and I decided on an international service experience we had been married for several years and had professional jobs in social services. Our expectations about what type of experience we wanted were
high. We looked for a program that was professionally stimulating, provided support yet allowed independence, and had a good reputation.
We researched both nonprofit and governmental organizations to find a program that allowed us to work with a broad spectrum of people in accordance with their own cultural values and expectations. The program fee needed
to be reasonable.
After a good deal of research and talking with friends and colleagues we decided to sign on with the nonprofit organization WorldTeach, www.worldteach.org.
Prior to joining I received three first-hand reports from people who participated in different WorldTeach programs and highly recommended the organization. When I talked to a colleague whose daughter participated in a WorldTeach program,
I expressed my concern about paying a program fee to volunteer. He simply replied, “It was the best money I ever spent.”
My husband and I currently live in Antofagasta, Chile where we are finally living out our longtime dream. We work in the public school system, where we will teach English for the school year. This is a pilot
WorldTeach program under the direction of the Chilean Ministry of Education. The government has created an initiative called Ingles
Abre Puertas and has made teaching English a priority in schools.
The liceo where we work is a technical high school where students learn various trades. We teach each of our classes in partnership with a Chilean teacher who concentrates on grammar while we devote our time to speaking
and listening comprehension. Among other classes, my husband works with students who are concentrating in tourism. The ability to communicate in English is crucial for these students as Chile continues to promote its outstanding geographic
diversity and national parks.
Participating in this program has made for a meaningful assimilation into our new community. Our presence here is wholeheartedly appreciated. People view us as gringos who are here to help and serve their country.
Most WorldTeach volunteers live with a host family that provides a vital portal to Chilean culture. Instead, my husband and I live in a small apartment in a middle-class neighborhood. This allows us greater independence,
but we lack other volunteers’ close connection with Chilean families. However, a number of people have reached out and helped us establish ourselves in our new home. One Chilean English teacher assisted us in finding an apartment.
A Chilean family has “adopted” us, frequently inviting us over for lunch or evening tea. Our landlady delivered coffee mugs, silverware, and bowls to our door the night we moved in. And the head of the English department at
one school checked in to see if we had enough blankets to be comfortable through the desert winter.
For people who want structure and support a WorldTeach program is a good fit. Since I had not used my college Spanish for ten years and my husband had never studied the language before coming here, it was nice to have
support the moment we got off the plane. Volunteers participate in a substantial orientation that provides basic EFL training as well as classes on the culture, geography, and language. In addition, the WorldTeach field director is a resource
for volunteers who have trouble with school placements or host families.
For More Info
WorldTeach is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide opportunities for individuals to make a meaningful contribution to international education by living and working as volunteer teachers
in developing countries.
Currently the organization has programs in Chile, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guyana, Namibia, the Marshall Islands, Poland, and South Africa. The time commitment for each program varies from several months to a full
year. Program fees also vary, in part because some programs are funded or subsidized by the host country. For more information contact 800-483-2240; firstname.lastname@example.org, www.worldteach.org.