Project Overseas. These words hung in the back of my mind for almost a decade. At the Thanksgiving table in 2007, I explained to my family how PO, as it is affectionately called, sends Canadian teachers to work internationally to deliver in-service to untrained and undertrained teachers. I described how every summer over 50 teachers head to countries in Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Caribbean and how, as an ETFO member, I could play a role in helping children around the world have access to trained teachers through this Canadian Teachers’ Federation program. They listened and nodded. With their blessing, I applied to be one of ETFO’s Project Overseas volunteers for the subsequent year.
I was selected to travel to Mabaruma, Guyana with three other teachers from across Canada. In partnership with teachers from the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), we delivered workshops to local teachers who travelled from remote Amerindian villages to participate in the two-week project.
Project Overseas often sets up in-service in hinterland regions. It makes sense as an international development project to go where the teachers work. We bring student-centered approaches and practices to help teachers maximize their efforts using locally available resources.
In a classroom with limited electricity, I rediscovered the essence of what it is to be a teacher. I have fond memories of a river of sweat running down my spine as I taught in the humid temperatures of the rainforest. When the daily rain poured down on the school’s tin roof, the noise stopped our lesson in its tracks. I considered how to use this time as part of the lesson. My creative teaching juices were flowing.
The challenges I witnessed changed how I saw my role as a global educator. I returned to Canada with a commitment to promote quality education for all children.
Project Overseas Develops Leadership Skills
Working as a Project Overseas volunteer provides leadership opportunities. After an initial placement, volunteers can re-apply and be selected for team-leader roles. I have led a team to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and another to Jamaica. This summer I will lead a group of four to St. Kitts and Nevis. I work in an alternative classroom in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board where many of the students have similar stories to the children living in poverty and surviving violence in Jamaica. Others share a common learning profile with students in St. Vincent who are not progressing at pace with their peers.
Project Overseas participants can become part of a wider network of like-minded educators. I was fortunate to have Taina Jantunen from the Elementary Teachers of Toronto (ETT) on Team St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Taina is someone I think of