It's been a horrific couple of weeks back in the UK. I think I spent a few days in shock and then a few more struggling to understand why! Finally I guess you have to accept that's it's happened and look for the good. There's a quote going around on Facebook that I love - look for the helpers. And it's true. There were so many helpers in Manchester and in London. But this post isn't about that. It's about whether or not you would be the helper?
I like to think I would be. I'm pretty experienced in first aid, I'm not afraid easily and I consider myself a pretty good person. But then I looked back on the opportunities I've had to help that I've let pass by. People who have fallen off motorbikes right next to me, I debated helping but decided the others who were going over would know better than me what to do. Or the homeless people I walk past everyday and do nothing to help. I started to think maybe I'm not one of the helpers anymore. And I was reminded of another quote - all it takes for evil to reign is for good people to do nothing.
So I began thinking of how I could help.
I went for dinner with a friend a few days ago, and we ordered far too much, the waiter asked if we wanted to take it home, I was going on a day trip the next day and my friend didn't want it, but I had a thought. So it was bagged up (using far too much packaging, but that's a separate issue), on the walk back to my hostel I knew we would pass at least one homeless person, I gave it to the first one we came across. No big deal, I didn't wait for profuse thanks, just placed it in front of them and gave a polite bow (as is custom in Asia). You see I'd read about people doing this and meant to do it myself, I mean it's only going in the bin otherwise but this was the first time I had done it and it won't be the last. You see when we talk about the helpers it's always the little things that are important and we must never lose sight of that.
When I left the UK I was adamant I would teach while travelling and I'd blog to stay in touch and clearly I've not been very good at that either. I got myself on a site called work away and sent at least 10 messages to various charities and schools offering to help teach English or anything else.
I got 1 reply. Maybe I was too full of myself, I thought they would jump at the chance to have a qualified teacher who is an English native. But it was late notice and I don't have much experience teaching English as a foreign language. It was humbling, I mean all I want to do is help, I didn't want money just somewhere to stay and maybe food, a lot of these programs want you to pay them! Could you imagine that in England?! Teachers paying to teach. Anyway, I did get one email reply from a place called Yellow House in Kuala Lumpur. They have a few teaching programmes and they are very centered around helping the refugees in the community as well as feeding the homeless, taking in strays and giving back in as many ways as possible. All run by a one woman team!
This is where I find myself now. I'll be here for just over 2 weeks and I'm teaching environmental science. I did teach a bit of science back in the UK as my degree is in biology, with my new found passion for environmentalism and protecting the planet, I thought it would be a good fit. We cook and feed the homeless once a week, talk to locals to help their English and live a fairly zero waste life here at the house. I'm excited to start giving back more and will hopefully get involved in more of these projects. The teaching however is not as straightforward as you expect.
I had to come up with 10 lessons to teach a class of around 30 on pretty much whatever I wanted under the topic of environmental science. The only equipment I have is a white board and the students will have pen and paper. No worksheets, no power point presentations and no technicians or assistants, oh and the students don't speak great English! I have a plan but I'm expecting to change it at least 5 times. Think of this the next time you're in your class rooms with your projectors and sheet after sheet, scissors to cut out, glue to stick in. I love a challenge so I'm excited but I do wish I could help them more!
Stay tuned for an update in a week or so to see how it goes, my first lesson is tomorrow!!