Nukanti Foundation

FOSTERING COMMUNITIES THROUGH YOUTH EMPOWERMENT

Teaching English in Colombia – and Learning about Life

Joseph KellyComment

By: Orsolya Kékkő  

It was a good life I miss!  Starting the day  with  breakfast while listening to salsa is something everyone would miss’. Teddy – the other volunteer back then and  now Nukanti’s director of Operations – would sit on the couch opposite me, eating fresh papaya we bought at the market the day before with the rice pudding and rightly famous Colombian coffee. The sun would be strong already by 9:30am and the locals were gathering in Quinchia’s main square, getting some well-earned rest after working in the fields. Their workday began at 4am while I was still turning in my sleep!

Our supervisor, Leonardo (director of Nukanti Colombia) met with us in the mornings, usually at cafes near Nukanti’s offices, to discuss our plans for our English classes. His relaxed attitude helped reduce any stress we had about planning and teaching classes for children, adolescents, and for adults.

Orsolya leading an English class in Colombia.

Orsolya leading an English class in Colombia.

On our first day, we were very surprised to see how much the students were interested in learning English! Our office was full of children and adults who wanted to sign up for our classes. It was exciting and Teddy and I worked well together in organizing the students into groups. She focused on the children and I taught the classes for adults. I had not before then taught a class and I was surprised how easily it went because of their excitement.

The classes were both fun and interesting. My students had infinite patience with my instructions in non-native Spanish. By working together, my students and I made much progress over the weeks we spent together. They were curious and learned quickly about to speak in correct English in complete sentences. It was such a rewarding feeling to realize that I helped them gain the training and tools they needed to speak English. It was marvelous to see the pride and feeling of accomplishment in their eyes.

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What I loved was that through the course of my class, my students also became my good friends. I got to know about their private lives and we would sometimes socialise. In the classroom, I taught them English; in their town of Quinchia, a place where everyone knows each other and they all know everything about each other, they taught me some of the most valuable lessons I have learned about life: Make time to appreciate the little things, take a few moments on the street to talk to a friend, and pause at the end of the day to watch the breathtaking sunsets before these disappear over the hills.

My students have made a difference in my life that I will always remember. And because they did, a part of me will always be with them, and in their lovely community of Quinchia!

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Orsolya Kékkő served 5 months as an English teacher and Education Specialist for Nukanti’s programs in Colombia. Today, she is trainer and change management consultant for the United Nations in New York.