A Life-Changing Experience: Volunteer Life at NPH Mexico
Through teaching children from difficult backgrounds, Sofi Estrada has grown as person.
September 20, 2019 - Mexico
This is not the first time I have been to NPH Mexico. I hail from Chicago, U.S., but I have been visiting the Miacatlán home for many years. I was excited to be back and see my godchildren. I was also excited to meet my fellow volunteers. Yet, I also had mixed emotions. I would be working in the school as a teaching assistant with no teaching experience under my belt.
It was definitely a step out of my comfort zone, but a step in the right direction nonetheless.
Working as a teacher was difficult, mainly because a lot of the students I worked with were far behind. New kids are constantly coming in, most coming from extreme poverty and low levels of education. Most of the kids here come from backgrounds where education is seen as secondary; survival is first. Some kids didn’t go to school at all. Some kids went to schools where the teachers didn’t show up. When I see kids like this getting an education that they couldn’t have dreamed of outside of NPH Mexico, I am humbled by the impact NPH has had and is having on the lives of these children.
Another thing I have become aware of is the constant feeling of being unsafe that most of them have had in their lives and still have now. Many of these kids come from abusive households or from cities and towns that are so unsafe their parents chose to send them away and have them live here. In the villages, towns, and communities not far from NPH Mexico, you’ll find gang activity and shootings. Many kids live in constant fear that though they are okay here, their loved ones outside of the home may not be safe. Growing up in a middle-class family from Chicago, I've never had to fear such danger to myself or my family, so I can’t imagine what it would be like to feel the way they do.
For these reasons, I was so happy to get to know the kids inside and outside of the classroom. I enjoyed learning about their lives and their struggles and seeing how these experiences have shaped them into the kids that they are now.
In the end, working as a teacher was both rewarding and challenging for me. I had no formal experience teaching so lesson planning was difficult; I really did not know what I was doing, especially in regards to teaching English as a second language. I thrived, however, when I worked one-on-one with the kids. I learned my strength is in cultivating individual relationships, learning about a child, and catering to their educational needs.
I quickly learned about the “naughty kids,” who didn't value their own education and preferred to live by their reputation. These kids often joked around, didn’t take class seriously, and were extremely behind. The most rewarding moments for me were when I finally got through to these students and helped them recognize their own value and begin to have faith in their abilities. Being able to inspire kids to believe in themselves and want to learn is the reason I grew to love teaching.
Overall, my experience in these first seven months working as a volunteer at NPH Mexico has been nothing short of eye-opening and life changing. I have learned so much about the children, the country, the world, and about myself in this short time span. I have had many positive experiences as well as many challenging ones. But through them, I have been forced to learn and to grow and for that I will be forever grateful.
Are you interested in gaining professional experience through volunteering at NPH? See our current volunteer opportunities available at nph.org.
NPH Mexico Volunteer