Informative Interview with one of our English Volunteers: Dani!

 

In this #InterviewSeries post, we interview Dani, a volunteer who joined us last year. He shares all of the details about his time and experience as an English Teacher Volunteer with One Two… Tree! in Guatemala. Let’s dive right in!

 

Question (One Two… Tree!): Hi Dani! Thank you for joining us for this interview. 

 

Answer (Dani): Thanks for inviting me.

 

Q: Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background? 

 

A: I am Dani Thomas and I live in Pontypridd in Wales. I have been a Computer Programmer for many years and I have an interest in music and politics. I also have a great interest in Spanish and Latin American issues. One of my ambitions was to spend some time in Central or South America possibly doing voluntary work.

 

Q: Wow – sounds like you achieved that ambition!

 

Can you give some details about when and where you volunteered with us, and for how long? 

 

A: I started volunteering with One, Two…Tree! Guatemala in August 2021. This was the first opportunity for a while, as foreign travel was blocked by the pandemic. I stayed for three months and I was based in Santiago Atitlan.

 

 

English class in Santiago, Guatemala

English class in Santiago, Guatemala

 

Q: Could you tell us a bit about what your daily life was like as an English volunteer?

 

A: As the pandemic was still affecting things, we were not able to do as much teaching in the schools as was originally envisaged. It was limited to explaining and retrieving the homework, and the classes were split in order to keep the classroom numbers down. However, we did start a twice-a-week adult class which included a number of workers from the local coffee cooperative. This had to go online as the Covid rules changed. We also got involved with Friends of Lake Atitlan helping with their recycling efforts.

 

Volunteers at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Volunteers at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

 

Q: Sounds like you were able to pivot successfully! Where did you stay in Santiago, Guatemala? 

 

A: I stayed in the house of Señora Argentina. This was great as she was always very helpful and welcoming and knows everyone in Santiago, pretty much.

*Argentina is one of the hosts One Two…Tree! collaborates with. She is a retired teacher from Guatemala City and is respected and appreciated by the community for her work with local projects. 

 

Q: Did you feel that your volunteering work had an impact on the community?

 

A: Yes. Despite the difficulties due to the pandemic, I believe that both the children and adults made real progress during the time I was there.

 

Volunteers in Guatemala

Volunteers in Guatemala

 

Q: Did you have an opportunity to learn any Spanish? 

 

A: I was already fairly fluent in Spanish but it was great to get the chance to use the language daily. However, since Tzu’tujil is the main language spoken in the area, I decided to start having lessons in that language which I found very interesting and fulfilling and gave me a great insight into Mayan culture. After coming home I wrote a song about Santiago in the Tzu’tujil language which mentions a number of places and people I met there. This can be seen here.

 

English teacher volunteer in Guatemala

English teacher volunteer in Guatemala

 

Q: Wow – that is incredible! What a lovely song, Dani, thank you for sharing.

 

What is something you wish you knew before coming to Guatemala to volunteer? 

 

A: Nothing starts on time!

 

Q: Ah yes, Latin America is notorious for that! What is the best memory you have from your experience? 

 

A: It is difficult to think of one in particular. I really enjoyed preparing for the adult classes and was able to use some ancient Welsh myths and legends as part of the comprehension. Exploring the various towns and villages around the lake which all have their own characters was great. Visiting the ruins of the prehispanic Tzu’tujil capital Chuitinamit. Also just the friendship and companionship with the other volunteers.

 

English teacher volunteers in Guatemala

English teacher volunteers in Guatemala

 

Q: Do you have any advice for future volunteers who want to start this adventure?

A: I would say it is absolutely worth doing. Definitely go for it.

 

One, Two…Tree!: Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us, Dani! 

Dani: My pleasure! 

 

If you are interested in learning more about volunteering in Guatemala this year, please contact us at: guatemala@onetwo-tree.com 

 

What does Teaching English in Guatemala look like in 2022?

Our Objective in 2022 Is To Provide More English Lessons in Guatemala

 

English teacher volunteer in classroom with children in Guatemala

Teacher Pauline with students.

 

You may be wondering what our programs and teaching English in Guatemala will look like in 2022, entering a new year with the pandemic still ongoing. 

 

Our objective remains the same: to introduce English lessons in public schools in Santiago Atitlán, one of the Maya indigenous communities on Lake Atitlán, in order to help kids and teenagers have the best possible education. 

 

At this moment, we are still collaborating with elementary schools in Santiago, and we are also establishing a relationship with our first secondary school, where our volunteers will teach English to children of various ages in 2022. Through these lessons, we are preparing the students for their English classes in school in the following years. They can also use this knowledge in their future professional lives, as the tourism industry in Central America is one of the main contributors to the local economy. 

How Does the Pandemic Affect Volunteer Teachers 

 

English lessons in Santiago Atitlan

English lessons in Santiago Atitlan

 

The pandemic impacted our work greatly, however, we did reactivate our programs in 2021, and we are looking to expand our work again to maximize our impact in Central America as soon as possible.

 

Currently, our teaching schedule in public schools is subject to the local authorities’ decisions regarding covid restrictions and safety measures. Due to this, we have part-time opportunities available, which gives you, the volunteer, more flexibility to work on personal projects or part-time work. We also have full-time opportunities available for those who want to immerse themselves completely in our work and help out where restrictions allow.

Enhance your Volunteering Experience in Guatemala

 

Volunteers participating in local projects in Santiago, Guatemala

Volunteers participating in local projects in Santiago, Guatemala

 

Although classroom time in schools may be restricted due to changing safety protocols, we also teach English to adults and teenagers through collaborations with local projects and encourage volunteers to participate in community-building activities in other ways as well.

 

There are multiple chances to help the community grow and to immerse yourself in local culture by getting involved in local projects, such as taking care of the environment, helping at a local community farm, coffee cooperative, or artisan cooperative.

 

We have collaborations with Cojolyá, a collective of artisan mothers; Cope Atitlán, a coffee cooperative; Amigos del Lago, an environment preservation program; and ADECCAP, a local community farm, and waste management program.

 

Become an English Teacher Volunteer with One Two…Tree! in 2022

 

Although the situation on the ground in Guatemala is constantly changing, there are many opportunities for volunteers to join us in 2022.

 

There is still a great need for support in the communities we work in and your volunteer experience with us will not go to waste. Whether you are teaching in classrooms or helping with local projects, we are dedicated to the development of Santiago Atitlán.

 

If you are interested in learning more about volunteering in Guatemala this year, please contact us at: guatemala@onetwo-tree.com 

 

Volunteers in Guatemala

Volunteers in Guatemala

#Interview Series: Leire

Hello! Welcome to this new interview!

Hello! Thanks for inviting me! It is nice meeting you.

Could you tell us more about your background? Are you studying/working?

I have a degree in Teaching (education), but I finished four years ago. Since then, I have been travelling abroad and now I am back in Spain.

 

How did you get to know 1,2 Tree?

So, I got a friend who was doing a volunteering experience in Nicaragua. I think it was five years ago, and she already had an experience with this organization, so when I started looking for NGOs offering volunteering experiences, I asked her for a recommendation and so that is how I became a 1,2 Tree volunteer.

 

How long did you volunteer with the organization? And Where?

I went there last year and I stayed almost two months: I went there at the end of October and I stayed until Christmas. I was in Mexico!

 

What was your daily life as an educational volunteer?

I worked four days: from  Monday to Thursday. Usually, we had from three to four lessons in the morning, in the public school and then we would switch to the boarding school because there were two schools. We used to go first to the boarding school indeed, stay there with the kins and also do some games.

 

How many volunteers were in the learning center with you?

We were five or six volunteers and we really had a good team! We used to go to different places and that really created a cool atmosphere to live in.

 

Which is the best memory you have of your experience there?

Nice question! I would say the day that we painted a tree on the wall: basically, we painted a wall and the kids had colored hands and it was amazing! Everyone was happy, singing and having fun. I really have a good memory of that day!

 

Oh wow! That seems very nice. I knew also other volunteers, first Totó told me that same memory.

 

Would you say that our volunteering work had an impact on the community/kids?

Yes, I really think so and I thought I also learned a lot from the kids and the local people back there.

 

Yeah, I can understand. Anyhow, sometimes there are many controversies regarding international volunteering activities, like programs where you need to pay a lot of fees. 123 is one of the few that you can trust for this!

 

I didn’t pay anything and this is the reason why I decided to start this project with 123. When you have to volunteer you are already ‘paying back’ I think. Of course, we bought some presents for the kids, but I never had to pay a fee. I knew what my money was for (e.g. food and accommodation costs) and my flight which I personally paid. I organized myself to book the ticket to go there.

 

What would you recommend to future volunteers who want to start this adventure?

I would say that it is an amazing experience! You will never forget it and I think to live the full experience to really understand it. You need to live it in person because there are no words to explain it.

 

I really recommend volunteering with 1,2 Tree. I really felt welcome when I went there. They explained everything, so I knew how was the project like. At the start, it’s gonna be hard,  don’t think you’re coming here for holidays and you’re not gonna work! They didn’t try to persuade me or else. So I would say that they are very clear and try to solve any problem. So if you have any doubts they would be happy to explain everything you need. I am really happy now.

 

 

#Interview Series: Teacher Totó

 

Welcome Everyone to the first of our #InterviewSeries. In this new section, you will get to know Former Volunteers, their stories, and past experience in One, Two… Tree! and take inspiration for your Future Volunteer Experience, when hopefully things will get back to normal. Enjoy!

 

This time we get to know Totó, a former Volunteer-Coordinator who has volunteered with One, Two ..Tree! for more than a year and who is currently working.

 

First, thank you very much for making this interview possible! As a fresh start, I would like to ask you a bit more about your background.

I am from Spain, from Vigo. I am Thirty-four and I was Thirty-two when I started working with One, Two… Tree! I’ve studied Journalism and worked in Marketing for many years. Then, back in 2018 I decided to quit that and went to Cambodia to volunteer as well. When I was there, I kind of knew about One, Two … Tree!, and Pedro; he told me that they were going to open a new project in Mexico. He already knew I wanted to volunteer with One, Two .. Tree and told me that it would have been great if I wanted to start a new project and collaborate with them. So, I decided to leave and start over again, because I didn’t like my job in Marketing, so I went to Zinacantán.

 

That’s very cool! And how long did you volunteer?

I was two weeks in Guatemala, in Santiago with Gergana and then I was for around a year with One, Two… Tree!

 

The project actually started in Nicaragua, which was the first project, and then it was April 2018 when a revolution started against the Government, and at that point, we were kindly asked to leave. Basically, right now Guatemala is the biggest one and Mexico is restarting again.

 

What was your daily life as a volunteer?

School starts at Nine or Ten, until Three o’clock. Each volunteer has one or two grades that they teach. They go to the school for three hours and then go to another school, which is a boarding school but not the kind of boarding school we are used to. These are proper schools made for kids from families who have poor resources, therefore they pay almost nothing and had numerous kids from 6 to 12/13 who live in a school by themselves. They have dorms, make their beds, etc.

 

And we would teach them another couple of hours and that is basically the beginning. Then we decided those kids from the boarding schools needed more support so we decided to go every afternoon. But it wasn’t always about English classes, it was more about being with them, playing some games, sometimes. We wanted to make those kids loved. It is hard to say but sometimes kids just need a hug and just need to know that they can be loved. Therefore, sometimes, we just had fun with them and that was the nicest thing we did during the second part of the year. In the end, we were also a big group of volunteers, around eight.

 

What I used to say to the volunteers was to try to take your mind out of everything you know and just enjoy it. If you want to do “this” with the kids, just do it. Just be respectful and kids are going to love it!

 

That’s also very rewarding from the human aspect.

I know that for me the important part was to enjoy what I was doing. If they liked an activity, I would repeat it until they stopped liking it.

 

Which was the best memory that you bring with you?

Well, there are many. But I guess at the end of the year when we were going to play with the kids in the afternoon, we had very close bonds with them and by the end of the term, we ended up painting the wall with the One, Two Tree Logo. And also, on that wall, we painted six trees. Those were really good days! But I might say that the best memory I had was during the last days when I had to leave, I was really sad to finish. Because, you know, when you start to connect, and all the volunteers are cool with each other. We all had good ideas. So yes, the last couple of weeks were the best, and also the summer camp that we made which was a lot of work, 4 weeks and 60 kids and our duty on the school. Everything went very well and the kids enjoyed it a lot!

 

Would you say your contribution had a social impact on the community?

Well, I believe the kids understood the meaning of learning English. For the development of the community and learned how to interact and bond with people from Abroad. “To break the walls”: that was one of the most relevant things.

 

I think the biggest impact was the kids learning and being able to make such connections which is really cool. They still don’t realize how important it is for their lives, to know that people from abroad don’t’ come to take advantage of them.

 

How is the Covid-19 impacting the Project at the moment?

I can speak for the Mexican Project. Schools are still closed, so even if we had volunteers, they would not be able to do anything. So I guess that is one thing that affects us, because they do not have this ‘continuous’ of volunteers. We really hope to restore the project as soon as there will be the safety conditions to do it!

 

As the last thing, what would you recommend to Future Volunteers who are willing to start this new Adventure?

Do it! Don’t think about it Twice. You won’r regret it. Just Enjoy the Experience! Time literally flies, so try to get the most of it from the very beginning. Especially if you go there for a month. It is really something you will remember and it is one of the best «job» to do.

 

It is always inspiring to listen to past Volunteers’ Experiences. Totó has certainly made a life experience that will always remember. And with him, also all the kids he had the chance to teach to. We sincerely hope to restore the projects as soon as the Health-Emergency will be over.

 

Thanks again to Totó for his time and we Wish the best of luck to him with his new Projects and Work in Central America!

 

Aviso importante

 

Debido a los últimos eventos nos vemos en la necesidad de comunicarles algunos cambios que se tomarán por parte de la ONG y los países en los cuales desarrollamos nuestro trabajo, con el fin de garantizar la seguridad de todos nuestros voluntarios y estudiantes.Seguir Leyendo

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