• Pippa

What Volunteering Means to Me and LOLOF

Updated: Jun 20, 2019

My first experience of teaching English to non-native speakers was as a volunteer in Toronto where I answered a request for telephone tutors to work with South American newcomers to Canada. After preparing the weekly lesson, I would connect via a dial up phone (!) with my Peruvian student and we would speak English. Initially it was intimidating (as every other "new classroom" has been since then!) but what I have always loved about teaching my language is that I am helping students into higher education, better job situations, improved living circumstances, and increased opportunities for communication at all levels.


Over the years that I was working in paid employment, I often thought about what I would do when I retired. I envisioned myself helping others by using the skills and knowledge I had developed over a long and varied career in teaching and administration. I also saw myself as somewhere else in the world. When I came across an article about Adam Braun, the founder of Pencils of Promise, I was intrigued by his comment about "leaping off the ledge of familiarity" (LOLOF) as a challenge to people considering volunteer work. It seems to summarize my life in that I've always been up for a challenge and ready to deal with the unfamiliar.


When I saw the Cuso International volunteer placement description for an English-as-a- Foreign Language teacher with basic IT skills in Vientiane, I knew I was about to meet another LOLOF challenge. As part of my pre-departure training I've been reading up on how the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals overlap with Cuso's vision of "a world where all people are able to realize their potential, develop their skills and fully participate in society."


It sounds wonderful on paper and I believe that I can help some of it happen for my new students in Vientiane. By providing quality education to my students, they will be able to connect with their international colleagues using English as the lingua franca. One of Cuso's cross-cutting themes is gender equality and social inclusion and both will be a fundamental premise of my knowledge sharing. Small steps in this area result in both recognition of gender equality as a fundamental right and a reduction in across-the board inequalities. Improved communication can affect important discussions related to climate action, healthcare outcomes, peace and justice and the formation of new partnerships. What a way to spend my retirement!


Yes! LOLOF. I can count to ten now in Lao, ask your name, tell you mine, tell you what I do and where I'm from. I'm sure I'll be dreaming in my new language before too long. Today, I read my screen saver from a new perspective. Very LOLOF.







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