Not only does ETFO-Waterloo support many community projects locally, but our members also make a difference in the professional lives of teachers and the education of students in developing countries through Project Overseas, a program of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation.
Every year during the summer, ETFO sponsors fourteen members from across the province to participate in Project Overseas.
Several ETFO-Waterloo members have participated in Project Overseas, supporting teachers in Sierra Leone, working with teacher organizations, and presenting professional development workshops side by side with experienced teachers from their host country.
We went to Liberia with Project Overseas in 2010. We were the first PO team in Liberia in 10 years, following a terrible civil war. My team was working with the National Teachers’ Association of Liberia (NTAL) to provide teacher training to untrained teachers hired to teach right after the civil war ended, so that schools could open. They had their high school diploma, but no teacher training.
As the country settled down, teachers needed to have training in education practices to continue to work. We were the first summer of a three-summer training program. At the end of it, the participants would have their certification, and be able to keep their jobs. We taught curriculum subjects and also modern teaching methods, psychology, gender-equity and AIDS awareness. This group graduated in 2012!
Project Overseas is an amazing opportunity! I participated in Project Overseas for the third time during July 2013.
I have been fortunate enough to have spent all three projects in Sierra Leone in partnership with the Sierra Leone Teachers Union as they work to enhance the expertise of their teachers and, ultimately, the educational system of their country.
As is any partnership, the learning was a reciprocal process. Working side-by-side with my Sierra Leone counterparts, they shared personal tragedies that had occurred during their civil war, the desperate working conditions that exist in many villages, the low wages or high number of teachers who are not paid at all! Most importantly, each and every day the teachers expressed how grateful they were for the team of Canadians who were there to help them bring their county out of the desperate life that exists there currently.
My experiences gave me a true understanding of the quote that is mounted outside of the Sierra Leone Teachers Union site, ‘To Liberate, Is to Educate’.
I would like to thank both my local and provincial affiliate for the support they provide to this life-altering project. In addition, I know that each and every ETFO member who participates in the in-country program is supported by the thousands of teachers who are part of our union family.
I would highly recommend that teachers get involved in this global project. If you have any inquiries, please do not hesitate to contact me.