School on Wheels (SoW) is a program created to save children from the streets and get them back into school. Many children from neglectful home situations, and have fallen behind and completely dropped out of school. No one in their family is teaching them the value of education, and often times, the streets are the only way they know how to survive. Feli Zagst, a gap-year volunteer from Germany spent the school year with the SoW students, and while school has been out, she and other volunteers have been creating a new curriculum for the SoW program. Here’s what Feli had to say about her experiences with School on Wheels and LCP.
“When I first started to work in School on Wheels I was afraid of a lot of things. Am I good enough to teach these children? What language barriers do I have to face? Of course, my program in Germany prepared me for that kind of work, but facing it in real life is different than anything that can be told to you.
For the first time in my life, I was working with children whose life could not be more different than mine back in Germany. The children I met lived in poverty and many of them came from difficult family backgrounds. When I first visited their homes and families and I got to see their living conditions, I had a hard time dealing with it, because it was a new experience for me. I was really shocked at the beginning and it took me a long time to overcome some of the stereotypes I had imagined. I was afraid that my hesitations were going to keep me from trying my best, and that there were too many obstacles to overcome. It took just a short time for my mind to change.
When I started to build up a real relationship with them, all my stereotypes disappeared. And now, after almost one year of working with these amazing children, I know that it was the best thing I could ever do!
I owe it these children that my mind changed that way, because they were the ones who became really open-hearted and less shy after the first few lessons. Being called “Ate Feli” and becoming their friend really means a lot to me. After all that teaching and playing with them, I realized that these children need more than just education. They are searching for a place to feel safe and loved. So my main duty besides having classes with them was being there for them. Although the communication was quite hard, because my Bisaya and their English might not be the best, in the end, we always found a way to understand each other. So day by day we became closer to each other and it made me so happy to see how they built up trust in me.
We have our classes in a small classroom with about 10 to 15 students from the ages of 7 to 14. Every afternoon from Monday to Friday. we plan different activities for them to prepare them for formal school. Their ages and their school levels are very different and I as a volunteer was confronted with big disappointment from the students when they could not complete the task, or another student was faster or better. It was important to teach them that I wanted to see their effort, and it was okay if another student got the answer quicker.
SoW benefits the lives of many children, so I really hope this program grows and gains support. Please consider giving to support this program.
We always had a great time together and I am really thankful for the encounters with these children and the opportunity to get to work with them. You are supposed to be their teacher and on the other hand, you become their friend as well. In the end, the children taught me more than I could teach them.”
There are children available for sponsorship from the SoW program. We also have volunteer opportunities at LCP at our Dumaguete City, Philippines campus. Consider changing a child’s life today through sponsorship, or an investment in their education through a one-time monetary gift to the School on Wheels program. Always remember, “One day the world may be different because you were important in the life of a child.”
If you are interested in donating to School on Wheels, click here. If you are interested in sponsoring a child, click here.