ďI have always been curious about Mexico and after reading an article about Global Volunteers in Modern Maturity, I felt this was my opportunity,Ē Larson said.
A retired receptionist/switchboard operator at the Willmar State Hospital, she packed her bags and headed to Mexico as a volunteer to experience the Mexican people and culture. ďIt seemed like a good chance to really experience living in the culture, getting to know the people and sharing some of my life experiences.Ē
Larson spent Nov. 7 to 21 at the Technological University of Guanajuato. She was part of a team of 17 North Americans teaching conversational English to university students. ďThere were only two of us on the team from Minnesota,Ē Larson added.
This team was part of an ongoing partnership between the university and Global Volunteers, a U.S. service learning organization. Volunteers work in language labs and small-group settings to concentrate on pronunciation and usage.
ďA Global volunteer met us at the airport and took us to our hotel,Ē Larson said. ďI donít think I would have made the trip on my own.Ē
Larson found the trip to be a wonderful experience. ďI was very impressed with how clean the city was,Ē she added. ďGuanajuato is a small city in the mountains at about 7,600 feet altitude. We had to drive through tunnels to reach the valley where the city was located. Nothing (roads and streets) ran straight.Ē
Larson explained she expected to see a poor area like one sees on television. Guanajuato is a wealthy city with lots of industry. The students explained to her that the university was a prestigous school and anyone who attended there was sure to get a job.
ďI learned so much from them,Ē she said. ďThe people are so friendly, and the students were very eager to learn English. At times, I felt I was in over my head trying to teach college students verbs and pronouns,Ē Larson said. ďThe students were very bright and many were learning more than one language.Ē
In her free time, Larson took a tour into the countryside around Guanajuato. ďThe countryside around the city is very similar to what you see on television. The people were much poorer,Ē she said.
Once outside of the university classroom, volunteers often chose to head back to school, either by participating in the universityís Spanish courses or by teaching even more in primary schools. In one small town of 90 people, volunteers used games and songs to give a class their first English lesson.
Other free time activities were mastering the city bus system and attending lively fiestas in the plaza.
The program was coordinated by Global Volunteers, a private, non-sectarian, nonprofit international development organization based in St. Paul. Each year Global Volunteers coordinates more than 125 teams who work on development projects in 20 countries. Volunteers range in age from 11 to 90, participating as individuals, couples, families, and groups.
Founded in 1984, Global Volunteers attempts to build bridges of under-standing between people of diverse cultures by involving them in one-on-one service projects. Projects include tutoring school children, teaching conversational English, renovating community buildings, assisting in health care, laying water pipes, assisting with natural resource projects, and painting. Volunteers work only at the invitation and under the direction of local project leaders.
For more information on Global Volunteers, call 1-800-487-1074 or write 375 E Little Canada Road, St. Paul, MN 55117 or visit their website at www.globalvolunteers.org.
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