UBELONGer in Cusco hanging out with her students

“I was filling a gap.”


UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Jessica Tsang
Age: 24
Hometown: Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Nationality: Canada
Languages spoken: English, Cantonese, Mandarin, French (fluent), Spanish (intermediate)
Occupation: Operations Officer at Shiseido Hong Kong Limited
Volunteer Abroad: Teaching English in Quito, Ecuador and Cultural Enterprise Development in Cusco, Peru
Duration: 8 weeks
Start month: April 2018

Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
When I was searching for a volunteer organization to be a part of, I came across UBELONG and their reputation as well as the diversity of their projects intrigued me to apply. I was also keen to volunteer in more than one location and with UBELONG having project locations in both Ecuador and Peru, I knew it would be easier to transition into both countries. Peru was especially interesting as they also had business based projects available, which was a great fit as I have been working abroad for a few years.

What was your impact on your volunteer project?
In Quito I was a part of the Teaching English project in an Ecuadorian school and I noticed that class sizes are large, and in some classrooms there were special needs children that needed extra attention. I took on the role of the Teacher’s Assistant helping them to settle the kids as they were teaching, going around ensuring children were spelling things correctly, and in the classes where there were special needs children I sat next to them to ease the workload of the English teacher.

In Cusco I was a part of a Cultural Enterprise Development project in a daycare in an impoverished neighborhood. Our main tasks were to raise awareness and increase engagement on the Facebook page of the organization the daycare was run by, as well as translate official documents into English in order to facilitate grant applications to overseas organizations, and also help out on certain days at the daycare in the classroom and for their celebrations.

Our Facebook engagements increased by 285% and page likes increased by 500%! By doing these, we were able to help our main point of contact in the project focus her time on running the organization and grants, while we were also able to help alleviate the workload the teachers would have in their classrooms as well.

At both projects as a volunteer I was filling a gap of easing the workload of the project or organization in order to help the schools run more smoothly and so that the teachers or organization heads could spend their time focusing on other important aspects of their everyday work life. These projects have a thin budget and volunteers are a solution to a budget issue such as hiring teachers’ aids or just having an extra pair of hands on site when needed.

What were your major challenges?
My major challenge in both projects was first and foremost understanding how I could use my skills or knowledge to make an impact and help the locals at my projects. In Quito at the school I had to first understand the teaching style and get to know the children and then from there I was able to adapt to help out the teachers run their classes more easily.

In Cusco, I spent a week and a half in the classroom to understand not only the needs of the daycare but most importantly, the needs of the children, community and their families in order to ensure that any work I did for the overarching organization would be useful. Then the next challenge was working with our organization contact point to create content and documents that could be used by them and also understanding what other aspects we could help with (in this case the translation of their official documents from Spanish to English).

Another challenge was language. In both Quito and Peru,  I had to communicate in Spanish with the principals and most of the teachers or with the organization head, and so I would definitely recommend having a base in Spanish.

In a sentence or less, how would you describe the locals you met?
The locals in both projects were welcoming, friendly, and excited and happy to have us volunteers around to help.

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