Y Care International volunteer Frances Miller shares how her experience tackling poverty overseas has helped in her current job as a teacher.

After a week of training in Dakar and a 16 hour coach ride through Northern Senegal and Gambia we joined 12 other local volunteers in Ziguinchor, Senegal is where my cultural exchange began. My team and I were assigned to provide health information and services that responded to the needs of hard-to-reach young people. Some of the activities included interviewing members of the village, holding focus groups and taking case studies.

Frances Miller 2Volunteering has always been a passion of mine, I studied International Relations and it inspired me to help people in the Global South. Volunteering overseas with Y Care International gave me the opportunity to engage with a new community as I was able to interact with the local community using French and Wolof. I learned a new culture and tradition which I will never forget. This experience has enriched my life and also my teaching, by allowing me to bring the cultural awareness from international experiences directly back to my students at home in Melilla.

Cultural awareness recognises that we are all unique. Especially when we are engaging with people who seem different than we are culturally, it gives us all the insights we need to honour those differences and interact in ways that encourage understanding and cooperation. Providing this in the classroom should be the first step, I feel global learning should no longer be seen as an add-on to school curriculums and should be integrated. My experience volunteering has enriched my teaching, in a place like Melilla cultural awareness is so important. It can help my students practice the skills of recognizing different perspectives and communicating ideas effectively in your own classroom, by including stories from my experience.

The skills I have gained from my placement are skills I will never forget along with the memories made with each of my new friends. If I could do it again; I definitely would, it has changed me as a person, I have reflected on my own values and culture which has provided me with the skills to see the world in many different ways. I’m also so grateful to be giving this opportunity and would like to say a massive thank you to all my friends and family because without your support this wouldn’t have been possible.

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Between the 16th and 19th Centuries, Senegal was the departure point for thousands of slaves making the gruelling voyage to the US and Europe. Today, many young people choose to make the arduous journey to Europe, risking their lives as they migrate from Senegal in search of a better life.

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