Gavin Furrey first began volunteering with Outreach360 in Jinotega, Nicaragua as a multi-week volunteer in 2016 and then returned to serve the following year. He is currently working on his Master's degree in Political Science at The Université de Montréal and is taking part in our Virtual Volunteer Pilot Program that began earlier this month. Outreach360 volunteers are connecting over Zoom with our students in Nicaragua to support them with their English speaking and listening skills. Gavin recently shared with us about both his in-person and remote volunteer experiences with Outreach360.
How did you first get involved with
I heard about the program from a friend and thought I would give it a try. The experience of my first trip drew me back the following year, and now I still think often of Jinotega and the great community of students and teachers there!
What have the highlights been of your virtual volunteering experience so far?
Definitely seeing how much the kids have grown in years and in their English skills. We went from reading books like The Magic Tree House and Diary of a Whimpy Kid to discussing in-depth topics like the use of social media in politics and animal rights. I love hearing their thoughts and how well they can express them in English, and it is fun to learn what they like to read now that they are older.
If a friend of yours was considering virtual volunteering with Outreach360 and asked your opinion of the program, what would you tell them?
My opinion is overwhelmingly positive about the Virtual Volunteer Program. The students are active participators and the time flies because they are so fun to talk to.
For a small part of the day you get to connect with students thousands of miles away and give them the opportunity to practice their English with you, and after you hang up it feels like you just took a short trip to Jinotega.
How can you have an impact on the students' English skills over Zoom?
While I would not substitute an in-person experience for a Zoom experience if I could help it, it is pretty cool that the students get to practice articulating complex thoughts with you and you can be there to correct some of their mistakes. Practice makes a big difference, and that's why I would say the Zoom experience makes an impact on the students' English skills.
What message would you like to share with the students?
I am so proud to hear how much progress you have made in English and so proud to get to hear how thoughtful and reflective you are. Discussing with you guys is not only fun but so interesting because you have all shared unique arguments on different topics we discussed throughout the week. Most importantly, it was a true pleasure to reconnect with you. I already missed Outreach360 and Jinotega, but talking with you guys again has convinced me to plan a trip as soon as possible!
For information on Outreach360's virtual internships, please visit www.outreach360.org/virtualimpact.