One of my jobs is recruitment of both youth and volunteers. So I’ve been making appointments with schools so I can go speak at their weekly assemblies to let them know about the program I’m working on.
My first appointment was yesterday at 9am. I had never been to the school but a couple of the youth from the program who used to go to that school said they would meet me at 8:30am so we could take the bus. But 8:45 rolled around… then 8:50… and there was no sign of them.
That was decision time. Do I a) call for a cab, wait for a cab and then get taken exactly where I need to go OR b) do I hop on the bus which I am (reasonably) sure will take me where I need to go and hope for the best.
So… on the bus I got and said a little prayer hoping that it would take me where I needed to go. There was a boy dressed in a school uniform so I asked him if this would take me to the school I needed. He said it would (first success) but from the way he described its location, I found out that it was somewhere near the end of the bus route…. and that he wasn’t going there.
Thankfully after a few more stops, a boy got on and I noticed that his uniform had a tag on it with the name of the sought after school! From then on I just sat on the bus, waited for him to get off and followed him to the school.
I’m very glad he was there because the school wasn’t at all visible from the bus stop. We still had to walk up the street and around the corner and then around a rather large puddle that blocked a good sized section of the road. Even if he wasn’t there, it would have been alright though. Most people are willing to give directions and I’m sure the bus driver would have pointed me in the right direction if I asked him.
Being a few minutes late, the students were already lined up in their rows in the yard. Seeing the students all lined up in their uniforms, I had one of those moments where the surroundings are general enough that you could very reasonably be somewhere different (like when you go to a Wal-Mart and you really could be at any other Wal-Mart and never know the difference). From the pictures I’ve seen, I very easily could have been at a high school in some parts of Africa (recognizing that Africa is an incredibly diverse continent – I’m not trying to suggest that it all looks the same).
A teacher brought me to the front were I had a brief conversation with who I assume was the principle. She then made a few comments to the students, introduced me, I said my piece, they sang the national anthem and within a couple of minutes the whole assembly was over.
Then I just had to take the bus back to the office. Piece of cake. The whole adventure took about 40 minutes. Now I will just have to repeat it a few more times with other schools over the next couple of weeks.
P.S. I don’t think that I will ever get used to being called ‘sir’. Some of the youth I have convinced to call me Drew but because students address their teachers very formally most of them will just shout ‘sir’ (or if I am lucky ‘Sir Drew’) across the room and expect me to respond. EVEN ADULTS that I meet call me sir because they think I am a teacher.
Drew Badgley is a student at the University of Toronto Scarborough, studying International Development Studies, currently on Co-op placement in Guyana.