This summer, 2016, I visited Providence after a long gap of ten years. I first visited Providence in 2005 with a small group of lovely people from Maynooth University, and spent a couple of months there in the following summer of 2006 too. In 2006, I never would have imagined it would be ten years before I returned, so I couldn’t wait to go back this summer.
I had kept in touch with all the activities and developments in Providence, mostly through Claire who returns to Providence on at least a yearly basis (the students often joked fondly that Claire is always here!), so I couldn’t wait to see what had changed, meet all the new Providence students, and hopefully see a few familiar faces too.
Providence expanded into this building in recent years. The students help look after the beautiful garden and there are rainwater harvesting tanks in front of the building also:
So much had changed since my last visit. The school has grown substantially in size and now caters for almost 300 students, which meant it had almost tripled its size in ten years! Although there are more students enrolled in Providence now, the school provides a nutritious lunch for the students every day, and regularly provides items like shoes, schoolbags, and school t-shirts for the students. We were in the school when the junior classes received their new schoolbags.
Trades such as electricity and plumbing are now available to Providence students since I had last visited, and other trades, such as paper-making, have developed substantially. Many new and fantastic teachers and tradespeople have joined the school staff since I had last visited. Many of these developments were helped by fundraising in Ireland and America. Of course none of this would be possible were it not for the dedication and enthusiasm of Providence’s teachers and staff.
One of the most lasting impressions from my visit this summer is the teachers’ commitment to the students, and to improving the school in ways that will have the most beneficial and lasting impacts on the students’ lives. We really want to help the principal Varina and the Providence teachers to implement the new ideas they have for the school and its students in any way we can.
Reading for Fun
One of the things we wanted to focus on during our trip this summer was on encouraging more reading for fun among the Providence students. The students already do lots of reading in their classes with their teachers, and many of the students are excellent readers. Like children in schools everywhere, some are better readers than others, and some students are more interested in reading than others. We wanted to create a sense of fun around reading outside the classroom, and to encourage the students to participate in reading activities in different ways.
Many students arrive to school early, so we tried to encourage casual reading while waiting for school to start. Providence has a nice but small school library, and we wanted to build this up a bit, so we brought some books with us from Kolkata and Guwahti. There tends to be a better selection of books that are cheaper in these bigger cities. We encouraged students to pick books they liked from the library, and we sat in different groups as book after book was retrieved from the library.
We read aloud to the children who were interested, and often the students read aloud to each other. Many spent time just looking through the pages at words and images. This casual reading before school and in free periods became a routine while we were there. These were some of my favourite moments from the trip. It was great seeing the children read and look at some of their favourite books independently. Reading books for fun is such an important activity: it improves literacy and reading confidence, but it also encourages imagination, creativity, and fun.
As there were five volunteers in Providence this summer, we split Class 3 into smaller groups and each volunteer took a group for reading each day. Though this was part of the school day, we still wanted to ensure that this was a fun and more casual opportunity for reading. Typically, the children picked books from the library and the group decided what books they wanted to read. We often needed to hold a vote! Providence’s library has some bigger sized versions of popular tales like Sleeping Beauty, The Ugly Duckling, and many others. These proved really popular and were read and re-read on many occasions! Claire had brought a set of Mr Men books to Providence and the children really enjoyed these books also. My group also loved books that had nonsense or onomatopoeic words and had great fun shouting along to Waddle Giggle Gargle!, a book about a magpie. Another book the group really liked was a funny book, Chu’s Day, a story about a panda with a giant sneeze. There is minimal text in this book and it has fantastic illustrations, so there was lots of room for the children to make up their own stories and to talk about what was happening in the pictures.
On our last day of reading group with Class 3, my group drew pictures of characters from their favourite book. Some students wrote a little bit about what happened in the book they liked.
Here’s Dariti with a picture of a princess inspired by some of her favourite princess stories.
And here’s Wandakyrmen with her drawing of the bear from Chu’s Day and her explanation of the story.
Here’s a close-up of Wandakyrmen’s picture and her explanation of the story. It’s a great version of the story and her drawing of Chu’s explosive sneeze is very detailed!
For more information on volunteering in Providence use the Contact Us form. We’re always on the look-out for a long-term TEFL teacher!