When it comes to raising my kids, I have always had strong principles and grounded ideas about their education and what is important for them to learn. Among these, doing volunteer work has always been at the top of the list, because I have always believed that helping others and gaining no financial benefit leaves plenty of room for people to enjoy the other types of benefits. Take the example of the dedicated life saving personnel and their incredible efforts to help us learn CPR. There are plenty of beginner first aid programs in Ottawa and all of them are held by volunteers from within the system, such as paramedics, nurses, firefighters and so on. This is the sort of example I want to give to my little ones. When they were kids, getting them to volunteer for different local activities was much easier, but then they grew into teenagers it became harder and harder to convince them of the importance of volunteering. As a result, one summer, I’ve decided to turn volunteer work into a unique adventure for all of us to experience together, so I signed both them and me up for a volunteers program in Haiti. Going to the Caribbean for one summer sure looked appealing to them and they didn’t even realize that the first step towards experiencing the education side of volunteering had already been taken: they had to learn Haitian Creole, which they accepted without complaints.
At first, I wanted us to take some classes before actually getting to Haiti, but it turned out there aren’t too many language centers that provide this type of lessons. In fact, I found none in our city, so I had to look for classes in Port au Prince. Fortunately, the Haitian people are used to having international volunteers coming and going from their country and also plenty of foreign workers, so there was a great institute there where one could learn Haitian Creole. The language classes were, without a doubt, a one of a kind experience, but the education process didn’t stop there. The Institute also taught us about the great history of that country, the cultural background and the many opportunities that the nation is currently opened to. The fact that we were there, able to actually feel and experience everything that we were taught, helped us significantly, enriching our knowledge and our understanding of their culture and lifestyle. The experience was also aided by our constant interaction with all sorts of people, from different backgrounds and social circumstances.
At the end of the program, my kids finally understood why volunteering is an important step towards a well-rounded education. It was not just about them having the opportunity to learn Haitian Creole and some facts about the country’s history or culture, which they could have probably read anywhere, it was more about them interacting with people and having the chance to actually live and feel the things they were learning or reading about. Such an experience really changes your perspectives and helps you grasp things differently and that was the last time I had to convince my children about the benefits of volunteer work. They continued signing up for programs for many years to come.