PMB, through American eyes

2016-04-13 06:00
PHOTO: supplied  Amy Rand from North Dakota, U.S. uses real objects to teach vocabulary as part of lesson at Umsilinga Primary where she has been volunteering since January.

PHOTO: supplied Amy Rand from North Dakota, U.S. uses real objects to teach vocabulary as part of lesson at Umsilinga Primary where she has been volunteering since January.

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DETERMINED to experience the different sides of Pietermaritzburg, Amy Rand from North Dakota in the United States, has volunteered at Mama Ntombi’s Community Projects (MNCP) since January.

Her husband and two children came to the city last July where they have been living while her husband studies as a visiting student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Rand, who has been in the education field for over 20 years, took leave from her job as an adult teacher to new Americans, which includes foreigners and refugees.

Upon her arrivalin South Africa, Rand knew that her exposure to the way of life here would be limited and that in order to experience what it is like to work here she would have to volunteer or shadow teach because she would be unable to have a permanent job.

“When I came here I spent a lot of my time at the American Corner at the main library in town. It was then that I was put into contact with Mama Ntombi’s. When I met the team I offered to volunteer my skills to their project and help educate the children in the areas which they serve,” she said.

Rand teaches the pre-primary programme and Grade 4 pupils English at Umsilinga Primary School in Ezinkheteni. Her methods, which are somewhat different to mainstream teachers, focus more on physical interaction and visual teaching.

“When I got to the school there were a few reservations not knowing where I was going and if I would be accepted, but it became increasingly important to me to see more than just the tourist side of the city and the country,” said Rand.

She explained that initially the pupils wondered who their new teacher was, but as time went on, they became fascinated with her and who she was.

“By the second class there was a girl feeling my skin to see if it was the same as hers, and the language hasn’t been a barrier because it’s interesting both for them and me to hear the different ways the same word is said.”

Speaking on her perceptions of the city, Rand said she and her husband had been to South Africa in 1998 when they backpacked through the country, but she found herself explaining to her children that there would be running water and electricity like there was in America.

“When I found myself giving these explanations I realised that the perceptions of the country and this encouraged me more to break these ideas. I am so grateful to have this opportunity to see the true side of the city and how people live.”

Rand said that there are so many stories to tell and it is important not to tell a one sided story.

“I’m so grateful and delighted to have a different experience of this city. It’s an incredible gift to get to see more than just the norm. When you’re working with children it’s so important to have a connection and, even though I won’t get to see it, I hope that I have made a difference in their lives. Although this volunteering is a small contribution and one that really enriches me as much as it helps others, it does nonetheless feel good and right to give back something.”

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