Volunteer Review: Erik T., Teach Physical Education in Ethiopia
My name is Erik T. and I'm from the state of Minnesota in the USA. In October - December of 2011, I was able to be in Ethiopia for two months through the Projects Abroad Sports program. During the day I taught 5th and 6th grade Spoken English at a local school.
My work background is in outdoor, experiential and environmental education so it was a new experience for me to be in a classroom. It was challenging to learn how to teach and not just to learn how to teach, but to teach in a different culture with lots of students in every classroom and with students who had very strong accents. But in the challenge came the joy of seeing the progress in students through my two months there.
My sports project
Before and after school a couple days a week, I was also able to coach the Girl's High School Basketball Team. Coaching is something I have a lot of experience in and is a passion of mine, so to be able to encourage students who had never had the chance to play basketball was a gift to me. It was daunting at first because 48 students signed up to be on the team, but as we started to practice only 10-12 students came consistently. Through my two months, I was able to get to know each of these athletes really well and each player progressed so much, they ended up being the young people I connected with and appreciated the most.
The third component of my experience was created because the Project’s Abroad staff connected me with a world-class elite runner to train with. We would meet before school and/or after school every day to run. He became my best friend while I was in Ethiopia as we hung out whenever we were able to. This combination of things shaped much of my experience.
Living in Ethiopia
While in Ethiopia, many people would ask, "How do you find Ethiopia?" and it was such a hard question to answer in one word because Ethiopia is so complex. I would often answer that it is the people that shape an experience. In Ethiopia I felt so welcomed every time I came to school, every time I came home to my host family, every time I met with my running buddies. I got a hand-shake, high five, shoulder bump, hug; something to make me feel welcomed whenever I went anywhere. I was greeted more in one day in Ethiopia than I am normally greeted in one month at home in the USA. The welcoming spirit, kindness and openness to share their culture is what I will remember and what I will miss the most.
There were also frustrating things too, just like anywhere. I nearly lost my voice asking the students to be quiet, the girls basketball team had such limited opportunities and equipment to play basketball, I met countless runners who gave up everything for running but who will probably never have the chance to show what they can do outside of Ethiopia. I experienced tremendous joy and hope, but also saw tremendous challenges and sadness.
Every experience and every place has joys and challenges, but the opportunities Projects Abroad provided encouraged me to grow as a teacher, coach, athlete and ultimately as a person. I will miss the students, players, teachers and Projects Abroad staff because of the genuine kindness and welcoming spirit of Ethiopia. Whether you will miss somewhere when you leave is the true test of an experience.
Thank you Projects Abroad for letting me learn, teach, coach and train here in Ethiopia, it was a blessed experience and I will miss Ethiopia and the spirit of its people.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.