VFV placements always put volunteers in positions when they have to adapt to, often challenging, conditions. A different culture, a different language, not to mention 35 degrees humidity everyday are more than enough to cope with for most volunteers, but some have even greater obstacles to overcome.
A recent volunteer, Holly Woodfield, should be an inspiration to anyone who lets fear stop them achieving what they want to. She has just completed a one-month teaching placement, coming out to the Philippines entirely by herself and throwing herself into her work, despite being deaf from birth and suffering from Cerebral Palsy.
Holly was working on a relatively new VFV placement, in a specialist class for deaf children at Sto. Nino SPED Center school. Teaching assistance is really invaluable in these schools, as local teacher Ledwina Eva Cabelic Teston explained to me. ““We have a greater spectrum of age ranges and learning abilities in this class, so focused one-on-one attention on the kids is really crucial, except, of course, really hard to come by as volunteers need to have sign language”.
Like most volunteers, Holly had no prior teaching experience, and like most volunteers, her placement involved some rapid learning-on-the-job. “One of the difficulties was that in the Philippines, we use American sign language, not the British version I’m used to. I had to quickly acquaint myself in order to communicate with the children”.
Of course, teaching in developing countries always faces obstacles, and teaching disabled children includes more of these than most other placement. One of the major difficulties Holly encountered on her placement was the lack of hearing aids. As Holly explains “Very few of the children at the school could afford hearing aids, which is really sad, as it makes language acquisition so much harder for them. My hearing aid is crucial to my speaking, in fact I feel lost as soon as I turn it off, so I really emphasized with the children and their lack of facilities”.
The project offered Holly the opportunity to work with children of a wide variety of ages, from grades one to six, in fact, which meant that she had a huge variety of daily tasks. “The really young children are new to school and are learning the very basics of reading and writing – the alphabet and numbers. The oldest kids, however are preparing for high school so they need more focused, one-on-one time on advanced English and Maths”. Academic work wasn’t the only thing she helped with, however “Filipino’s love dancing and singing. In fact – the children at school have a dance show every month, so I helped out a lot with that. I enjoyed practicing with them so much and was so impressed with how well they did!”
What do future volunteers who are interested in this placement need to have? “They need to know sign language as there is no speech at the school. And need the knowledge of deaf background and like the culture. They need to be keen on helping children and wanting them to improve. But mostly – they need to be open and willing to just enjoy their time here and have fun”.
Would she recommend this to other people? “Of course! I really enjoyed my placement, particularly seeing the children improve over time. There were hard parts as well, especially communicating in a big group, which is always a difficulty if you’re deaf. But if you throw yourself into the work, the culture and the island life – then it’s really guaranteed to be a great experience!”
Kamila Kocialkowska, latest Media Intern for Volunteer for the Visayans writes about the experiences of fellow volunteers working in various VFV projects. In this article, Kamila talks about Holly Woodfield, a volunteer from the United Kingdom who has recently worked as teaching assistant at the hearing impaired classes in Sto. Niño SPED Center, Tacloban City, Philippines.