Volunteering in Taiwan
22nd January-3rd February
After emailing a couple of mission organisations that work in Taiwan, I received a reply back and they put us in touch with a principal of a school who was looking for volunteers to teach English in a winter camp, as we were free before the winter break we would teach in her school for a week, then run two English camps in two other schools the following week.
We didn’t really know what to expect when we arrive, we only knew that we were going to have a place to stay. We were in touch with the English teachers of the schools so that we could prepare the programme for the two weeks that we were there. One of the teachers picked us up from the bus station of Lukang, she dropped us off at our first host family and then drove us around the town, showed us Longshan temple and took us out for some food as well.
We had a whole floor to ourselves
with a living room, a bedroom and a bathroom and were given money to buy ourselves food as the host family didn’t have time to cook for us. However, they would always bring us some food every evening though so we always had so much food to eat. Their English wasn’t good and we communicated a little bit with sign language.
The first elementary school we were teaching English at was Xi Shi Elementary school, we started early in the morning as they were having a teachers meeting. We were picked up every morning by a teacher who took us to the school and were dropped back to our host family’s house after teaching as well. We were introduced to all the teachers and then taken up to the sports hall where were going to be teaching. We found out that we were going to be alone, completely in charge of teaching 70-80 kids at a time the first 2 days and then we would teach about 30 children at a time. It was a bit overwhelming at first but I seemed to be natural at it and Nick went along with it. We didn’t really have a break as the children were very curious and wanted to chat and play with us in the breaks too. We were their first foreign volunteer so they were very excited.
We were given food, drinks, treats and other gifts by teachers, students and the principal.
Every day we had lunch at the schools, we had lunch boxes some days and sometimes we would have the school lunch and the food was always yummy: we would normally eat some soup and a rice dish. We finished at around 1pm every day as we were teaching English online in the late afternoons/evenings we went ‘home’ to rest before our next lessons.
On the 23rd January (Tuesday), the principal, Susan mentioned that there might be a reporter coming the next day to interview us. We assumed this was going to be for a small newspaper but in fact it was for a local TV channel.
We were on TV and there are youtube videos to prove that we are now famous in Taiwan.
Susan also organised a Chinese tea party just for us, one of the teacher’s husband’s hobby was being a tea master and he was amazing at it. Best tea, I have ever had. We were sipping tea for hours, chatting and enjoying the company of the other teachers.
On the 25th January (Thursday) after school, we first went to a hot pot restaurant which our host family’s daughter owned. We can see why you would want to eat a hot pot, it was delicious, yummy, yummy and we ate so much. We were then driven around Lukang with some of the school children and teachers, we went to Tianhou temple, it was a very very old temple. We also found out that Lukang was a tourist destination as they had lots of really old temples and an art village too. We made a leather key ring at the art village which the school children decorated with us and one of the teachers paid for it so that we could keep it.
We loved teaching at Xi Shi elementary school, we were able to communicate with quite a few teachers in English and of course our main contacts were the English teacher, Kara and the principal, Susan. They were so lovely and they made us feel at home.
We then said goodbye to all the teachers and students and Susan took us to our next destination, Xihu where we stayed with another host family, they had two children: Alan & Vicky, they were 7 year olds twins. Alan seemed to be very confident at saying hello to us but Vicky was shy, this changed the following days. Vicky even joined me for my online lessons and said hello to my online students while Alan would often stare into nothing just so that we wouldn’t try to talk to him in English. After we made a joke about this, he was told to speak more and he would start to play with us more, the last day, we were there he wouldn’t shut up speaking in English.
We had a private en-suite bathroom and the family gave us breakfast and dinner. As I would teach in the evenings, Nick would often be the only one joining them for dinner and I would quickly eat in my breaks.
Mr & Mrs Hung that we were staying with organised a family outing to the drummer village in Tainan on Saturday and we spent the whole day with them, first we watched an awesome show, we were not allowed to take photos or videos of it unfortunately and then did lots of other fun activities like archery, slides and went on a raft. We then went to a cool, European looking museum where we wandered around for a bit. The family paid for everything from our food to tickets etc… Apparently, they can claim their money back from the school that we were volunteering for.
We went to Susan’s church on Sunday which reminded us of an Anglican church, choir dressed up, the worship was lead by young adults and was modern. Susan’s son translated for us and we went out for lunch with him and a couple of other young adults from the church. We learnt a lot about the culture of the church in Taiwan and the difference between Mandarin and Taiwanese churches. Many churches moved to Taiwan from China because of the communism.
The second school was more of a village school in the countryside called Wu-Feng elementary school. The children seemed to be quieter but harder to manage a bit because of their level of English. They have had other foreign volunteers before so they didn’t seem to be as curious about us. I left Nick to teach on his own as I got a dentist appointment for a missing filling at the same time as one of the lessons. He wasn’t as comfortable teaching on his own. We also had an incident where one of the students was clearly bullied by everyone else and had to step in and use the English teacher as a translator for telling them off and asking them how they would feel if they were treated like that. As this was a winter camp, there were not many teachers around and other than the principal no one else could speak in English. We went fruit picking with a couple of teachers after our first day and went out for a Taiwanese lunch with the principal’s family and visited his home the next day. He then also took us to a beautiful Chinese garden.
The third school was the school where Mrs Hung was a teacher and Alan and Vicky also came and took part in the English camp on the last day, although they were the youngest. The children seemed to be engaged and listened to us well. We taught in a classroom and rearranged the class a few times to suit our activities and games.
Mr Hung took a day off work just so that we could go to the Sun Moon Lake for a family day out on our last day before we headed back to Taipei then left to Australia. Unfortunately, the lake wasn’t sunny but it was a very foggy, misty day. We went up a cable car and the cable car just disappeared into the fog. It was a lovely day spending time and playing with Vicky and Alan and enjoying the family’s company. We went out for a meal, first had some yummy noodles and then pizzas. Again, we were soooo full by the end, the pizza was actually the best pizza we have had, it was a sweet pizza with cinnamon.
When we got to Lukang, I had to use my crutch as my knee was flared up from the long walks in Taiwan. Our room was on the second floor and had to walk lots of stairs to get to it. By this point, we knew that if I had to do stairs my knee would be really bad and adding to this, we had to walk even more stairs in all the schools that we were teaching in. We then had to be energetic and be on our feet for teaching for many hours a day and even demonstrate some dances to songs. For the best case scenario, after all of this, I will be back on my crutch permanently and will not be able to walk and will be in lots of pain. But… after the first day, my knee was better than when we arrived and I was able to do more and more, took less painkillers and have not used my crutch ever since. Knowing the knee I have been living with for the last year, this could have only happened by miracle. I was able to be myself and enjoy teaching and did not have to worry about my knee too much. I am so thankful to people who have been praying for my knee and continue to pray me, I have experienced the strength of prayer once again.
I have learnt that I love teaching and I was born to do it. My mum said it runs in my blood as my mum was a teacher and so was my grandfather and grandmother. Nick was very good at it, he learnt very quickly but he wouldn’t want to be a teacher on his own, he was more like my assistant most of the time. We talked about wages of foreign English teachers with one of the principals and if we came back to Taiwan I think I would be able to find a pretty good job pretty quickly.
Taiwenese people are the most hospitable people we have ever met.
The schools that we were teaching for are looking for more volunteers. Taiwan is such an amazing, beautiful place, you have to visit it. If you have some time on your hands, you should also volunteer so that you can get to know the culture better and this can also benefit the schools as Taiwan is trying to encourage its citizens to learn English more and to become more confident at speaking. It’s a great missional opportunity too as the schools seem to be very open to Christianity if it comes from a foreigner, we taught Bible stories and Christian action songs as well.
If you know anyone or you would like to volunteer, let us know and we will put you in touch with the principal’s of the schools.
We have now volunteered for two Jewish families in Israel, in a hotel in Malaysia and teaching English in Taiwan together.