Building bridges between the expatriate and local communities
May 1, 2010 Leave a Comment
During the cold winter semester I spent in Amsterdam – a city teemed with interesting volunteering opportunities, my interest was piqued by the Native Speaker Project (NSP) organised by the charity organization, Hart voor Amsterdam. It was designed with expatriates in mind – especially those fluent English speakers but not necessarily proficient in Dutch.
As Hart Voor Amsterdam project manager and NSP initiator, Dominique Cordier explained: “The project started in 2007 because there were so many native English speakers who wanted to do volunteer work and so many MBO-students who lacked English-speaking skills”.
Anyone who has endeavoured to learn a second language will agree that it is best acquired by consistent practice with fluent speakers of that language. My colleague Allan Tirivayi and I were inspired to help geographically expand on this idea in Maastricht.
We obtained Dominique’s permission to use the weekly exercises posted on the NSP website.
Jan Slangen, director of Maastricht primary schools Joppenhof and De Burght in Heer, was the first to give a positive response to our suggestion to initiate English conversation classes with expatriate volunteers in local schools.
We agreed to start a pilot project with his schools in Heer from 26th May 2010 till 21st July 2010. The class will be a voluntary after-school activity held once a week, tentatively on Wednesdays. Some 15 to 20 students aged 10 to 12 years are expected to participate in the 45-minute conversation class.
The more volunteers the better as the students can then be divided into smaller groups within the same class. A lower student-volunteer ratio will give more opportunity for the young students to practise English.
From a volunteer’s perspective, it is a fulfilling experience to share one’s language skills with the young students and at the same time, feel “connected” to the local community. The only obligations besides coming to the school on the agreed time, are to attend one briefing session and to check for the following week’s exercise posted on the NSP blog. A school teacher is always present in class with the volunteers to help out when necessary.
Call to the expatriate community in Maastricht
We are currently seeking English-speaking volunteers from all age and background. Local schools are also encouraged to contact us. At the moment we are in discussion with Talentschool to further expand the project in Maastricht.
By Cheng Boon Ong
Cheng Boon Ong is a Malaysian expatriate currently doing her PhD on ethnic segregation in the Netherlands at the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance. The volunteering project is not a part of her research but it is nonetheless an endeavour of strong personal interest. Her project co-organiser, Allan Tirivayi is an equally enthusiastic Zimbabwean colleague working on e-learning.