Located about an hour drive from Amber Cove, where our Fathom cruise port was, we veered off the paved road to turn down what may just be the worlds bumpiest road. We were on route to Cupey, a tiny village where our group was headed to teach English.
English is a skill that is very valuable in places like the Dominican Republic. Since the tourism industry is continually rising, English is a necessary skill to help Dominican’s land jobs. Unfortunately though, English isn’t always available to everyone, especially to those in smaller communities like Cupey. That’s why Fathom has teamed up with on-ground partner, Entrena, to bring travellers into communities like Cupey to help them learn basic English skills. Entrena has strong community connections and their years of experience working within Northern Dominican Republic makes Fathom more aware of the needs of the local communities. This way travellers like us can deliver in the most appropriate and effective way.
Prior to getting off our ship, I attended an on-board workshop on empowering English tutoring to help give me a better idea of what we’d be doing and get a look at the materials that have been created for us to use. The materials are very colourful and divided into different lessons which each community works through as new travellers come. When you’re on the bus on your way to the chosen community for the day, you’ll be told the subject which that community is on that you’ll be teaching. The day we went, they were studying celebrations.
We arrived in the community and were brought to a communal area of the village where we were all given a number which matched the corresponding family we would be spending the afternoon with. We were quickly matched up with our family and they shyly walked us over to their houses. Our group was of about five travellers and we each were told to partner up with a Dominican who we would be teaching for the next hour or so. I was paired with Clara, an older woman who lived next door to the family we were with. Clara and the other family members were all ready and eager to learn more English with their notebooks and pens in hand.
To be honest, it was kind of awkward to just be thrown onto someones front porch and told to start teaching. Coming from spending multiple years teaching kids in Spain, I still wasn’t entirely sure how to start, especially since most of them spoke little to no English. I flipped open my materials I was provided to the celebrations unit. But as I started, I realized how little English Clara knew. So instead, I asked to see her notebook to get an idea of where she actually was in learning, and went back in the binder of materials to review what she had already learned.
The materials were great, in the sense that they gave us something to work from, but I found it too difficult to focus on one unit with only five words for an hour. Plus, these people live in a remote community, so even though they may have learned their ABC’s, they likely didn’t have anyone to practice with once those travellers left each day they were there. So once I realized that Clara was happy and willing to review what she learned, and still didn’t have a full grasp on it. Once we got in the swing of things, you could feel the uncomfortableness leave both of us and before we knew it we were being collected to head back to our original meeting area.
This is when we could voluntarily share what our experience was like with the group, and the locals could share their thank you’s with everyone. We then took photos and said our goodbyes before separating from our new friends and talking among one another about how the experience made an impact on us. Before we knew it, we were back on our bus and headed back to our ship. Which felt a bit ironic to be in this less fortunate community to come back to the castle we were living on. But either way, we left with full hearts and eager to continue the week in the rest of our impact activities!