Last year, I went to volunteer on one of the most beautiful places on earth, the island of San Cristóbal, Galápagos, Ecuador. I spent a total of 3 months working in a conservation project and with the Parque Nacional. Hard work, outside, great adventure (thanks i-to-i for offering this option!).
In my time on the island I made a lot of friends and discovered I not just like but really, really love the island life in a place as special as the Galápagos and I knew I had to come back.
With the contacts made in the previous year, I found an opportunity to teach English at a not-for-profit school on "my" island. The school itself is small, consists of one classroom only and is run by a local man who grew up in New York. Coming back to the islands he found that education as a whole lacks there but that English education is very much behind of what could be expected and what it is on the mainland.
He decided to start a school, especially aimed at children from the poorest families to help them advance in life. The school operates after hours; children first follow classes at their normal school and after that, in the afternoon, come to this school.
The school has to work with what it has, and that isn’t much. Books are old and copied so many times that it is sometimes hard to read, there are 2 old computers and well... that's basically it. But, the children love it! I loved it, and the children.
There are a total of 5 classes each working day, 4 1-hour classes for the children based on their age (where I would have preferred it was based on their level) and 1 2-hour class for adults.
The children can first be admitted to the school at the age of 6 although from time to time you might find that some parents lied about the actual age of their child and you will find a cheeky 5-year old in your class ;)
Although the children (or rather their parents) pay for the classes, the amount being paid is minimal and for those who really cannot afford it, the fees are waived. Volunteers don't pay a fee, which is pretty uncommon on the Galápagos. For most volunteer projects volunteers have to pay (high) fees to be able to work for free. Another great thing is that this is one of the very few volunteer projects that can actually waive the National Park entrance fee for the Galápagos for you (this year $100,- as of next year the entrance fees will rise substantially). They will place you with a local family but you will normally have to provide for your own food and drinks (depending a little bit on the family).
All in all, it's a great project, worth going to if you would like to gain more TEFL experience before entering the world of paid TEFL work or just because you think it's a good cause in a great place.
Life on the islands is absolutely fantastic! I am totally in love with my life there, I miss my very good friends, my house (I rented a small home by myself), my dog... I can't wait to be back and hopefully I will be back after I completed my TEFL course.
In the meantime, if there's anyone who'd like to know more about working and living on the Galápagos, feel free to contact me :)