Name: Laura Little
Hometown: Richmond, California
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English
University: San Francisco State University
Degree: Apparel Design and Merchandising
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Kindergarten Teaching in Accra, Ghana
Duration: 4 weeks
Start month: August 2015
Claim to fame: Laura worked as a preschool teacher for five years and dealt with children from diverse cultures and socio-economic backgrounds.
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
UBELONG provided the perfect combination of opportunity for personal exploration, cultural immersion, affordability and professionalism that I sought in a volunteer project. The UBELONG website answered all of my questions and really put me at ease.
What was your impact on your volunteer project?
I came in to my kindergarten teaching placement with zero expectations. I wanted to first observe, then assist and finally, enhance a few existing processes in the classroom. This strategy enabled me to get a more personal experience from the teachers and students. Each day was better than the last because of small, simple victories: being invited to eat a communal lunch with Madame Mercy, Madame Maridiya and Madame Naiye, hearing their unfiltered opinions on what works and doesn’t work within their school system, taking pictures together, exchanging phone numbers and chatting. These seemingly unimportant details are what gave me the confidence and implicit “green light” to slowly take on more leadership in the classroom. The kids responded to me better as my social relationship with their teachers improved. The students and I created a wall collage of different drawings, alphabet and number tracings they created during my stay. It felt like a symbol for our increase in class pride, self-esteem and cross cultural understanding.
What were your major challenges?
Initially my feelings of “rich” American guilt, paranoia and sadness stopped me from really living in the moment. However these are the very feelings, when processed and acknowledged, that guided me toward an unforgettable experience. I stopped comparing my school placement in Ghana to where I taught in the U.S. I found the beauty in the sense of community among everyone, the gracious welcome I received and the children’s weekly drumming. I loved the drumming! Most importantly, journaling my feelings helped me feel grounded.
What is your favorite memory?
I have no single favorite memory. Everything was amazing, the good and the “bad” all felt purposeful. Without one event happening, perhaps a trail of other events would not have followed that led to a personal revelation or just a fun afternoon at Kokrobite Beach. I adored the members of the local team, my fellow international volunteers, and the many local Ghanaians I met. At school, I looked forward to seeing Grace to learn more local games. Hannah was always eager to help me clean the classroom in exchange for crayons for her and her sixth grade friends. I even looked forward to being called Madame Obroni because, hey, “Madame” means they see me as one of their teachers right?! And initially I was just “obroni” in the class.