Name: Aditi Saxena
Hometown: Singapore, Singapore
Languages spoken: Hindi, English (fluent), French (fluent) and German (intermediate)
Occupation: Business Analyst
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Organic Gardening in Vang Vieng, Laos
Duration: 1 week
Start month: September 2015
Claim to fame: Represented India in cultural programs through dance and yoga performances in Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Germany and Oman.
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I decided to become a UBELONG volunteer as it was my first time traveling abroad to do something noble for the society and UBELONG provided me a platform to create impact in a foreign country with activities like farming and teaching English. UBELONG provided a unique program to travel and volunteer which made the entire experience interesting with one discovering a new country and adapting to a different culture, while making a difference in society.
What was your impact on your volunteer project?
Volunteering with UBELONG was an enriching experience. I worked on two projects namely organic farming and teaching English to primary school children. At the farm, I assisted with fixing the fence by using bamboo sticks and planting marigold flowers. For the latter, I taught English and conducted after-school extra classes for the fifth standard students. I also conducted a ‘train the trainer’ session for the Laotian teachers to improve their fluency and clear their doubts on grammar. Both the projects were very exciting especially teaching, as it involved interacting and engaging primary school children and making them participate in the classroom.
The joy of spreading knowledge and watching the students understand the topics further enhanced the experience and made it rewarding. I taught ‘Months of the Year’ and ‘Dates’ for which I designed a lesson plan and methodology of teaching. This included teaching them by reading to them, making them repeat after me, drawing on the board and giving them incentives like chocolates if they got the answers right. These techniques were used to make learning easy, enjoyable and interactive. It helped to maintain the students’ attention span and concentration on the subject. I enjoyed teaching Laotian kids as they were very well-mannered and kind and showed a keen desire to grasp the matter. Overall, the students also enjoyed the experience as they appeared intrigued and amazed by being taught by a foreigner. In this manner, the entire experience provided a sense of satisfaction and helped me create impact in the community schools.
What advice would you tell a future volunteer?
The entire experience involves exiting your comfort zone and adapting to another culture. This means it is important to read about the country where one is volunteering and the place, people, culture, food etc. in general to have a better idea of what to expect and what the experience would be like before embarking on the project. Moreover, as reiterated in the volunteer booklet, it is very important to take precaution and be safe when traveling abroad especially as part of a program. Hence, care must be taken. Preparing in this manner will better equip the volunteer to succeed in the program and take back good memories.
In a sentence or less, how would you describe the locals you met?
Laotians are very kind and welcoming. They possess a friendly and cheerful demeanour with a sense of respect and care when working with foreigners.