Everyone working with our partner organisation in South Africa speaks good English – but it’s certainly not their first language. To an extent all our e-volunteer work helps local people with conversational English – and volunteers have found the best way to approach this is by picking a different topic for conversation each week – but for this project our partners wanted a real focus on improving language and literacy. It also needed to be fun!
They came up with a genuis idea – an online book club!
This would promote reading skills and could also lead to interesting discussions – all of which would be conducted in English. It was decided that they would choose the book – they picked ‘The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency’ by Alexander McCall Smith, which is set in the neighbouring country of Botswana.
Here is volunteer Eileen’s first report as she starts working with them to get the book club rocking and rolling.
“I am loving the project – with all its challenges. It is good to be reminded that people living in South Africa deal with these challenges every day. There are rolling black outs to preserve electricity, so various teachers get knocked off Zoom at various times. There was a point in time where everyone was on during our first meeting and I got to hear a few words from each one. But since then, there are always technical difficulties affecting some. Plus, two or three are sharing small screens with masks on in different locations, making it hard to hear them at times.
Even with the challenges, each of them has had a few minutes to introduce themselves, talk a bit about their background, and share what is important to them now. When online, they are able to share insights and ideas that enrich the discussion. I feel I am getting to know them bit by bit. I am impressed by their engagement, their interesting comments, and their commitment to their learners and to their own self-improvement.
The choice of book was excellent. There are many things about a book set in nearby Botswana that the teachers can relate to better than I. They are teaching me a lot. A number of them are writers themselves and I hope to provide some time where they can share their own writing in the future.”