Canadian resident Lisa Gerrard volunteered abroad in Jinotega, Nicaragua in August 2017 alongside her children, Avery Kit, age 8, and Ryan Kit, age 11, with Outreach360. Lisa, a Criminology Professor at Algonquin College in Ottawa, volunteered with Outreach360 for the first time in Feb. 2014 leading 10 college students in the Dominican Republic. After volunteering with Outreach360 in 2014, Lisa decided to bring her children to volunteer in Nicaragua.
“I was hoping to gain some time with my children, as well as a new adventure; doing something different, pushing them outside of their comfort zone, and seeing the lessons that we could take home as a result,” she explains.
Lisa and her two children taught English immersion classes to 37 Nicaraguan students from the German Pomares neighborhood located in Jinotega. Lisa and her daughter, Avery, taught lessons to students about writing and reading. Ryan opted to teach interactive lessons involving movement and expression by honing into his passion for sports. All in all, each family member enjoyed teaching the English language.
Avery says, “I really did like the program. I really liked working with the kids. When I see them learning and trying to speak in English, it just makes me so happy to see that happen.”
Outreach360 welcomes family volunteers, like the Gerrard family, to serve in impoverished areas in Latin America, while providing a safe and inclusive environment for volunteers of all ages. The organization immerses family volunteers in cultural experiences unique to both the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.
Ryan and Avery especially enjoyed exploring Nicaragua. They admit they were both nervous about being in a new environment but were glad that they had decided to volunteer as a family.
“It’s inspiring to help other people because at the end of the day you feel good and they feel good too. I learned that no matter where you are from in the world, all kids are the same,” Ryan said.
Volunteering abroad provides a unique opportunity for families. With Outreach360, parents teach alongside their children to educate underserved students in Nicaraguan communities. This opportunity opens doors for families looking to spend quality time together.
“As a teacher, it was really neat to see my children teaching. There is so much family time, even if we were just playing catch in the backyard, skipping in the front, or whatever the case may be. At home, we are so busy, riding off to football practice, or wherever we are going. With Outreach360, you are unplugged and it is just family time,” said Lisa.
She admits that she is already planning on leading another group of her college students to volunteer in Nicaragua; however, she hopes to continue to bring her family to volunteer with Outreach360 each year. Both of her children are eager to continue to serve abroad and at home in Canada.
Lisa explains, “I don’t know how we couldn’t do it again after doing it once and having exposed my kids to this opportunity. I think it needs to become a part of our regular routine.”