Our time at Green Island School was on of the most amazing, yet eye-opening experiences of our lives! My boyfriend, Jordan and I had been travelling around South East Asia for two months already on sabbatical leave from our jobs in England, when we contacted Khaing Zar at Green Island about volunteering with the school for one month. Within a couple of weeks we were on a flight to Yangon. We stayed with Khaing Zar and her family in their lovely home which we were told to treat as our own. All of the family and the teachers ( who were often in the house too, eating, laughing and chatting) were so welcoming and friendly that we quickly felt at ease.
During our first day at the school we observed what a normal day looked like and tried to get to know some of the children. At first the children were nervous of us, but after a few hours they were clambering all over us, a true sign of acceptance! Back in England I am a primary school teacher so was curious to see how a school was run in Myanmar. Khaing Zar aspires to run the school with play-based learning, similar to England, which I was delighted about. The children learn a mix of both Myanmar and English and already have an excellent knowledge of the English alphabet and can speak a lot of English words and some sentences. I was keen to teach the children a system of sounds as well as their alphabet, which would make reading and speaking easier for them. Khaing Zar was happy for me to do this and wanted to learn the sounds herself so she could continue when we left. Jordan and I had small groups of children for 30 minute lessons. As the children are so young they find concentrating for longer than a few minutes very hard and so I broke the lessons into little chunks starting with sounds and kept it very fast paced so they didn’t get bored. I also decided to teach them a topic, I choose ‘All About Ourselves’ which gave lots of scope for teaching different English words and phrases. This could include learning about body parts and the face, singing heads, shoulders, knees and toes or the oakey cokey, self portraits, favourite colours, animals etc.
You don’t have to be a teacher to help at Green Island, everyone brings different skills and knowledge to help Khaing Zar, the teachers and the children. Jordan is a carpenter, so after school he improved the children’s adventure playground. Khaing Zar’s father, husband, the school’s bus driver and a local carpenter all came to help. The rope bridge was dubbed ‘Jordan’s bridge’ and the children love playing on it.
There are 50 children that attend the school and most of their parents can not afford to pay. Khaing Zar can afford to support seven families at any one time and so rotates the children each month, these children don’t pay any school fees and receive a free school meal, which is invaluable as some of the children’s families struggle to afford food. The children are thriving at the school and have a great advantage from attending.
Green island is more than just a school; it’s a service that provides local families with what they need: support, advice, food and clothing. Khaing Zar is a truly inspirational lady who is constantly striving to help improve the lives of others and we will continue to support the school from home to help her to achieve this goal. Please help in anyway that you can, you do not need teaching experience, just a passion to help in any way that you can. Go to green island, it will change your perception of the world forever!