Today we are talking to Madison, who is currently volunteering with us in Lebanon. After having come over in July for two months she deciding to stay a further two months with us.
1. Tell us about yourself
Hi y’all, my name is Madison from the US! I’m 22 years old, and I’ve just graduated from University this past May. There I studied International Relations, and learned both Russian and Arabic. Traveling to Lebanon has been my first big trip, and I have loved it so far!
2. How did you get involved with SB?
I got involved with SB on a whim. I woke up one morning and knew that I really wanted to travel to the Middle East after university. After much googling, I found the blog of a former volunteer, found the SB website, applied, and the rest is history.
3. What is your favourite memory with SB?
This is such a hard question because I have a new favorite memory every week. That’s why I’m so grateful I still have a good bit a time before I have to leave. But that being said, my current favorite memory was the indoor playground trip we took with the students in celebration of Eid. It was so much fun to just run around and play with the kids. I really forgot that I am 22, and not 12. But beyond the fun that I had, it was really great to watch the kids cast off inhibitions and act their age. I’m really glad I got to be a part of that.
4. What do you find challenging?
Something I’ve found the most challenging is engaging with students who are not all that interested in being taught the English classes- especially because I am working with the young adults. It has taken some time and a lot of patience to convince the students that I have their best interests at heart. But in communicating that I’m here to help, that I believe in them, and that I’m not going anywhere, I’ve been starting to see a breakthrough not only in their learning, but also in the classroom culture.
5. Advice for a future volunteer?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I know that sounds like a cliche, but I really mean it. We all rely heavily on each other, for lesson planning tips, on the really hard days, on the busy days. I’m so grateful for the volunteers and the staff here. Not every day is glamorous, and sometimes it can feel quite overwhelming, but connecting with the others that are here is the best way to combat the tough stuff. Being around so many people that are committed and here for the right reasons is a gift, and it should be taken advantage of!
6. Did it change your life in any way?
Working with SB is definitely changing my life. It is hard to articulate in what way exactly SB has changed me. But, I can tell you that I feel even stronger in my resolve to be a part of the movement to provide education to all those who seek it. There are so many reasons that our students might not be here, but they show up with eagerness and resolve. Their resolve has emboldened me. Even if I can’t completely insulate our students from the real sadnesses they’ve encountered, I’m grateful to be a part of their steps moving onward and upward.
7. What was the most important lesson you learned?
I’ve learned that there are many types of victories to celebrate in the classroom. A fellow volunteer, once suggested to me that daily I commend the women in my class for just showing up. “Good for you for being here today.” Sometimes making it to the building, is worth celebrating in and of itself. In that small celebration I have seen so much pride in the eyes of the women. Life can be really tough, so just learning to love the small steps to the door has been a lesson I think I’ll carry for a long, long time.
8. Anything else you want to share
There are a multitude of complexities that make up the humanitarian catastrophe many of the students here at SB, and elsewhere, have endured. I know that those problems can be quite daunting, and it can really feel like whatever you might do is like trying to fill a bucket one drop at a time. But, if I may, I want to be the one to say, that just volunteering your time, just smiling, just grading papers, just coloring pictures, just playing football (**soccer), just a high five is never just… “just”. It can be the difference between a kid smiling or not in a day. The work we are doing here at SB is important, and more to the point it is working. If more of us “just” showed up, I believe it could and it would make a world of difference. So if you’re thinking of volunteering your time, or are on the fence, I highly recommend “just” giving it a shot.
Interested in volunteering with us? Click here to find out more.