Guest blog contributed by Noemie-Capucine Quessy
When reading the description for the IVHQ Morocco Women Empowerment program, it wasn’t clear to me what “occasional childcare” implied. Besides my experience coaching swimming lessons (which I loved), I didn’t have much of a teaching background. And working with kids? I mean, kids are fine although I find it’s awkward at times to deal with their impulsivity, loudness, hyperactivity, whining, disobedience … Besides my two adorable nephews that I see once a year, children are not part of my daily environment.
In the classroom in Morocco, we were sitting at a low table, cramped on tiny chairs around children aged from 2 to 8. Eyes were all on us, with inquisitive faces impatiently waiting for instructions as we stood there, perplexed and confounded. Were we supposed to assist the teachers, bring teaching material, or stand up and actually teach? And besides Arabic, what do the children know about French or English? How do you teach a class that has such a large age difference?
I noticed the alphabet letters displayed on the wall above the blackboard. I took a chalk and, with a doubtful voice, spelled in French: “A?” Immediately, the 14 students repeated after me, loud and clear: “A!” “Ok,” I thought to myself, “that’s a good start.” I then invited my volunteer partner to take over for the English part. We did the same with numbers, days of the week, and colors.
We were teaching.
We taught children every morning, and soon enough they got the grip of it. As young as they were and even with language as an obstacle, we managed to introduce activities to make the learning interactive, fun, and creative.
When I was challenged to bring something new to both the class and their teachers, I introduced Play-Doh (a modeling compound I always carry with me while travelling) in the activities. With that new and fun tool, we taught kids numbers, small mathematics, and how to sculpt letters of the alphabet. By fostering creativity and innovation, we established a positive and productive classroom atmosphere.
The weeks went by, and our bonds with the children strengthened. When teachers switched the class to Arabic and read stories, the girls held my hands, played with my jewelry, and gave me occasional kisses on the cheeks. When playtime arrived at the end of each class, kids that once were whining, crying, or independently roaming around the play area soon took our hands and dragged us along with them. In the inner courtyard, in a circle holding hands in harmony, we sang, swung, jumped, skipped, and spun at the rhythm of Arabic sounds.
Having teaching experience would have been great, but I realized that what mattered here was the act of giving and donating our time and our heart to make a positive impact in the lives of others. Once we overcame our feelings of discomfort and disorientation, we realized what we were capable of achieving. And to see those little faces staring at us with a big smile, holding our hands tight without wanting to let go, that was a pure joy.
Volunteering in Morocco was one of the richest and most rewarding experiences of my life. Not only did I gain a better cultural understanding of a country, I also built strong ties with inspiring and remarkable individuals, both young and adult.
I did get confused at times. I did think, “What have I gotten myself into?” And I’m glad I did. You can only grow and learn when you take risks and accept challenges. And once you start thinking outside the box and working past your comfort zone, you experience a true sense of accomplishment and identity.
Hailing from the province of Quebec and now living in the mountains of British Columbia, Noemie-Capucine Quessy is a passionate traveler and life enthusiast. Always looking for new experiences, she travels the world exploring and embracing foreign cultures. Noemie-Capucine considers herself as a true footloose wanderer and hopes to inspire people in stretching out of their comfort zone, working on their Bucket List, and following their dreams.
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