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Volunteer English teachers make a difference in Taiwan
01 July 2005
by Mo Yan-chih

Kinmen County, Taiwan: Megan Jefferies came to Taiwan two years ago to teach English. Instead of staying in big cities she opted to live in Kinmen County and volunteered to teach at the Chong-cheng Elementary School. 

Tremendously enjoying her teaching experience, Megan, as well as 11 other English teachers from the US and Canada, decided to stay for another year to voluntarily help children in rural areas learn English. The amazing interaction among children and friendly people, she said, have made it very hard for her to leave the school.

Wearing cheongsams and traditional mandarin jackets, 25 foreign English teachers gathered to share their experiences and bid farewell to their colleagues.

Organized by the King Car Foundation, the Schweitzer English Teaching Programme, which was initiated three years ago, brought people from the US and Canada to Hualien, Nantou and Kinmen County, where they volunteered as English teachers in elementary schools.

According to Morgan Sun, general director of the foundation, the teachers' selection process is run in cooperation with the Advanced Training Institute International, a home-education programme in the US. The institute chooses qualified teachers who have TESOL certificates and are enthusiastic to volunteer as English teachers in Taiwan.

Yesterday, the end of the semester, the teachers called the experience of teaching English in rural public schools an amazing privilege.

"It's been a wonderful year for all of us not only to teach English in public schools, but also to have the chance to experience a whole different culture," said Benjamin Jacob, a 23-year-old Virginian and the leader of this year's volunteer team.

As one of six teachers in Hualien County, Jacob had through the years travelled to Taiwan four times to teach English. He said that developing a love for this country and the enthusiasm to teach are important for anyone who wants to become a successful English teacher in Taiwan.

Dedicated to continuing her teaching in Kinmen, Jefferies said that her biggest satisfaction is to see the progress students have been making every day.

"When I first went to Kinmen, kids were shy when they saw us foreigners at school. A year later, they would say hello to me, and I am happy to see how kids are becoming more confident in speaking English," she told the Taipei Times.

Sun said that thanks to these voluntary teachers, who not only teach English in the classroom but also spend time with students and community members after their classes, children in the rural communities are able to learn English in a more vivid and natural way.

Encouraged by the programme's success, the foundation is planning to bring more foreigners into the programme to benefit more children in rural areas. In addition, the foundation also plans to call on young people in Taiwan to join in the efforts of foreign teachers and teach in rural communities, according to Sun.