Volunteer Spotlight – Camilla Werle
Watching the children that we serve learn and grow is very exciting, but also watching our volunteers learn and grow is just as exciting. This is the case with Camilla Werle, a young woman fresh out of high school who came to us last September from Lustenau, a little town in the west of Austria. Here Camilla shares a bit with us about her experiences with Education Plus:
What has been the best part of your experience at Education Plus?
I don’t have only one best part of my experiences by Education Plus, there a lot! One of them was to see how the children changed and developed so much in only 6 months. For example Gabi (5), first she was very shy, didn’t talk a lot, and wasn’t able to write letters and numbers. Now she talks a lot and has the will to learn new things. Another example is Yorgina (12). When I visited the project the first time I met her as a very shy, malnourished girl that wasn’t able to read and write. Now she can read and write and her physical condition has improved a lot.
I also see a marked improvement in the behavior of the children since we started with the “Principios”. The first month I stayed in the project the children didn’t show a lot of respect towards the teachers or their classmates. They were yelling during the lessons, contradicted against the teacher and talked very bad about each other. Today they respect a lot more their teachers and the classmates too.
Additionally I was so stunned and stirred how much confidence and love the children gave me since the first time I was in the project. They hardly knew me, but immediately they took me in their hearts.
Furthermore it makes me every day so happy to see, how happy the children are that you are coming to the project, attempting to teach them new things about the world that they had never heard. Most days they are very early at school, usually already an hour before lessons begin, only because they want to welcome you and spend a little bit time with you before the lesson starts.
What motivated you to do this type of work?
After the last stressful year at high school, I wanted to take a break before starting university. But I didn’t want to take this break in form of a well-paid employment, instead I wanted to help people that haven’t the possibility to study and do a gap-year as I am able. Also I wanted to improve my Spanish and get know to a new culture as well a new mindset of the people.
How would you say you have grown during your time with Education Plus?
I have grown personally and emotionally. The new experiences about the culture, the mindset of the Nicaraguan people, and the beauty of the landscape made me think a lot, and changed my way of thinking about many things. First I was really annoyed and angry about many of the local ways [littering, hitting, etc.], and I didn’t understand their behaviors in certain moments, because they were so different than my ones. So I first had to learn to deal with this dissimilarity. Today I don’t approve things I view as wrong, per se, but I know why they commit it and I don’t take so much offense about them.
What would you say to someone who is considering volunteering with Education Plus?
You should definitely take the chance to volunteer with Education Plus. In any case you will profit from the experiences that you definitely will make about the children, especially you will be amazed about their lovely way, the ways of the people and the culture. You will also see the poor part of a country and their people with their zest of life, even if they are poor and sometimes don’t know how they will pay their food or bills for the next days.
What is the most satisfying experience you have had during your time with Education Plus?
The most overwhelming experiences I had with Yorgina (12). When I came to the project I was very shocked when I first saw her. Her physical conditions were very bad. She was malnourished, had scabies, seemed to be scruffy and was definitely too tiny for her age. Furthermore she wasn’t able to read or write, even not her name. During my period at Education Plus she developed physical and mentally. I am exceptionally pleased about the fact, that the one-to-one lessons deliver fast results. Now Yorgina is able to write her name and to read easy texts, she has grown a bit and has a well-groomed appearance; especially you can see a significant improvement to the condition of her hair [which was once lacking pigment due to malnutrition].
The many time and effort I invested in her, she gives me back with a lot of love and affection, which is more valuable than money. And I am always so happy to see her everyday more and more developed, happy and with more zest of life.
So what are you going to do now?
I am going to visit my grandmother in Brazil, because I miss her so much after not seeing her for 3 years. The time in Nicaragua enhanced these feelings more. After this time I’m going to study at university medicine or chemistry, at the moment I’m not completely sure which exactly.
What suggestions do you have for Education Plus to improve its program and services to the children?
Because of the good communication between the volunteers and Monica and Jim the suggestions of the volunteers directly flow into the project. So my only recommendation that I think that should be valued a bit more, is that Education Plus should find a building or a property to build up a new school, without a family that lives in it. I’m sure that Marta’s family loves to help us and the children, but after some time it would disturb every family and person to let 150 kids in his own house every day, and not to have a quite minute from 9:00 till 17:00.
Thank you Camilla for all of your time and effort helping the children of Pantanal!