I had to pinch myself when the car I was travelling in stopped at a tiny village called ‘Mothakkhara’ in the south Indian state of Kerala. Nestled within the compounds of a lush mountainous range, waterfalls and the second largest dam in India, I had arrived as a volunteer English trainer for Village Ways. Throughout the car journey I had kept an open eye for signs for the village and wondered why I couldn’t see any. In a moment though I understood, Mothakkhara is one of India’s best-kept secrets. The traditional way of life in the village remains largely unaltered and is just as rich in culture and smiles as it is in fertile pastures.
I had travelled to Mothakkhara to help build confidence in speaking English of local village women that had been selected to become guides. Though there were only a handful of guides selected, it took me a couple of days to figure out who they were as my English classes were so well attended by the community and everyone was so excited to practice their English. Whilst the children all learn English at school, the language proficiency of their teachers is often limited, limiting the extent to which they can learn.
It was a wonderful experience to share my native tongue, teaching and building the confidence not just of the guides but also for the whole community (even the school head master attended some lessons) whilst experiencing another culture at the same time. By being a volunteer trainer for Village Ways, I experienced first hand the positive contribution the organisation is having toward social cohesion and community development in a village life – and this is before any visitors arrived! The first guests arrived in the village recently and, I have to admit, I was just a tiny bit jealous that it was them there not me.
Jessie Laing, English language trainer