Saturday, 30 October 2010

Returning from the UK

Yesterday I returned from my three-week visit to the UK.  These times are always tough on the heart and this was no exception. It's private stuff so I'm not going to elaborate here but I will tell you that feelings and events have caused me to re-think what comes after my next six months in Sri Lanka.  I've decided that I've got to go back to the UK, at least for a few years, before I do any more volunteering so far from home.

What I'll do work-wise is a bit up in the air. I'm attracted by the thought of getting a Post Graduate Certificate of Education or some such qualification which will allow me to go into formal teaching and give me classroom skills I feel I'm lacking.  I have a good BSc in Electronics and Computer Science and I have a natural liking of maths-based subjects and things with a tech bent. From what I've heard, male teachers are in short supply as are people with maths, though I don't know if more teachers, generally, are needed. But at what level would I teach? And do I need to specialise? My time in India has given me 18 months-worth of teaching experience with children aged 6 to 20, and my time in Sri Lanka has also allowed me to work with adults. And again, prior to India, I had some part-time experience of helping children in a Special Needs school. If I must specialise then some of this experience will surely help me making a decision and help me getting a position. Will it be expensive and can I get paid while I train? There's much to research.

I'm also drawn to is the world of development aid - organisations such as Plan-UK etc which seek the eradication of poverty through child education. Education again.

But I know that the employment situation in the UK is dire... this is not a good time for a 55 year-old to be looking for a job and career change. In fact, this sounds like the perfect time to be going volunteering! 

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Soft Spots And Gaps

This is one of my favourite photographs taken during my 18 months in India. The little girl was a full-time student at SISP, the NGO I worked for. She was one of a family of four - three girls and one boy - all as bright as buttons but, like most of the kids there, very poor. The little lad in the photo was one of the children who'd graduated from SISP when he made it back into mainstream public education. He returned to SISP in the evenings for help with his homework. For many children the conditions at home are not conducive to doing homework (there may be no table, or the house is too crowded and noisy, or there's no encouragement at home. Or worse.)

I had a real soft spot for that little girl. She would come and help me whenever I needed an extra pair of hands. I have another photo of her with a hand-drill when I was making a noticeboard. She would gather in the drawing materials or turn off the computers without asking, even if it meant she'd be late for break. And she would be the one to come and give me a hug on the few occasions I was feeling a bit down. I didn't resist - I needed it as much as she did! 

In fact I had a soft spot for most of the children at SISP and also for the volunteers and staff. It was like one big family and I was part of it. I miss those times. Don't get me wrong, the people I work with now and my teacher-students are all great, but it's not the same. There's something missing.

The day after tomorrow I fly back to the UK for three weeks to see my real family and friends. When I return to Sri Lanka I plan to fill the gap by working some mornings at the little Muslim school up the road. They tell me they're looking forward to me starting there. So am I!