After not being able to find a camp through Camp America to work at during the summer I started to look into what volunteering opportunities there were in the UK and overseas. This is when I came across the charity Balkans Peace Park Project. I did some research and applied, and when I was accepted I had a few weeks to plan and book everything.
My first week I was based in a village up in the mountains in North Albania called Valbona. Most of the volunteers came from Albania and Kosova, so it was really interesting working with them and learning more about the region. We worked in the local school and taught the kids English in the morning, and in the afternoon we would help NGOs such as Cultural Heritage teach the children about how to hold on to their traditions, have sustainable tourism and protect their very special environment. This allowed me to learn about how these communities live, and gave me an insight into what it’s like teaching English as a foreign language- I am currently doing a TEFL course so to put that I have learnt into practice was invaluable.
My second week in Lepushe built on my first week. I was teaching older children who had specific things they wanted to learn to help them with tourists. I got to see how PhD students conducted their research in the area, and learnt more about B3P itself. It was quite a challenging environment at times, as a lot of the kids didn’t have a high level of English so I had to rely heavily on a translator. Also there were times where I had to think of activities to do with kids on the spot to keep them engaged. However, to overcome these challenges and to feel like I had made a difference to their lives in some way made it an amazing experience, and one that I would not have considered if it wasn’t for the Work Experience Bursary.
I am considering teaching as a possible career, so this has been great practical experience. It has also shown me possibilities into development and how you can work to improve the lives of communities not just in Albania but all over the world. I have met all kinds of people working for all different areas within B3P, and so it’s something that I will definitely stay involved in.
– Isabel Railson is a 3rd year Politics and English Language & Linguistics student.