Megan Foo's Blog

Teacher Appreciation Interview with Aideen Robbins of The Umbrella Foundation

[b]Aideen Robbins[/b] is a secondary school mathematics teacher from Ireland. She completed her teacher training in England in 2007. Since qualifying, she has worked for four years in the UK, teaching in a state school and 1 year volunteer teaching for the Ministry of Education in The Maldives.She is currently working at Haileybury Astana, a British International School in Kazakhstan. In addition to teaching in London and Kazakhstan, she has volunteered as a teacher with [url=]The Umbrella Foundation[/url] three times, including an extended stint in a rural Himalayan village last year where she organised multiple teacher training workshops for the local teachers. She has a lot of experience and knowledge around the many difficulties that Nepali teachers face in their day to day working life, and ensures that there is a high degree of cultural sensitivity in each of the Umbrella Foundation's programs.
[b]Megan Foo: What inspires you to teach [url=]The Umbrella Foundation[/url]'s students?[/b]
[b]Aideen Robbins:[/b] I first volunteered with the Umbrella Foundation in one of their 5 children’s homes in Kathmandu. At the time The Umbrella Foundation was just setting up their volunteer teacher programme. When the first teaching volunteer arrived I went with him for a couple of weeks to the stunning district of Rasuwa, helping the teachers of the school in Gatlang village. This village is where some of the Umbrella children had been recently reunited with their families. Entering Gatlang was like stepping back in time to a small farming community.
The welcome you get when you are there is overwhelming and it is pretty special to see the children back where they belong and happy with their own families. Unfortunately the level of education these schools are able to provide is limited due to the lack of training for teachers and facilities they can provide for their students. The teachers were however still very enthusiastic and showed up every day when we provided them with some training during their days off.
I knew leaving the village those two weeks had been far too short and I immediately put plans in motion to return. At the start of 2013 I went back to Nepal to volunteer for 5 months. I spent that time providing teacher training workshops in four different government school with another trained teacher from the UK. I returned to Gatlang for two months. The village is set in the beautiful Lantang region with sunning mountain views. It was great to see that in the year that had passed since I had been in the school many improvements had been implemented with the help of the Umbrella Foundation, most strikingly the transformation by two previous volunteers of a dirty room into a bright, attractive library. However, there were many issues and difficulties still faced daily by the school.
[b]Megan Foo: How has [url=]The Umbrella Foundation[/url] reached its goals in the domains of trafficking alleviation and family reintegration?[/b]
[b]Aideen Robbins:[/b] The Umbrella Foundation has successfully reintegrated over 150 children to date and are continuing to support them through education and living allowances.
The reintegration team do a fantastic job and work tirelessly ensuring that each reintegration is the best option for each individual child.
It is a sad fact that many of the families were involved in the trafficking of the child in the first place, thereby creating a risk of repetition. After every reintegration there must be continuous follow-up visits by the Umbrella team to monitor the children’s progress and to assess the success of the process.
Convincing parents that their child is better off within the family unit is difficult, especially when they see that they are receiving a good education and are being well cared for by The Umbrella Foundation.
[b]Megan Foo: What do you love most about your work with [url=]The Umbrella Foundation[/url]?[/b]
[b]Aideen Robbins:[/b] The Umbrella Foundation really is a very special organization. The children in their care are now healthy, happy and well-adjusted. They have been given a new lease of life. For the first time in their lives they can now begin to dream of a better future for themselves and their families. It is run like one big family.
Visiting reintegrated children back with their families and seeing how they interact with them is great. Sitting around an open fire for dinner in a village home with the family of one of the Umbrella children is an experience like no other I have had before.
[b]Megan Foo: On a personal level, what does education mean to you?[/b]
[b]Aideen Robbins:[/b] I feel very passionate about the fact that children no matter what their background have a right to an education and a decent start in life. School should be a place that all children look forward to going each day. It should be a safe and comfortable learning environment for them. With the help of organisations like Umbrella Foundation local village schools in Nepal are slowly seeing many improvements but they have a long way to go yet. As you can imagine teachers in Nepal do not receive high salaries or training. They are required to teach large size classes in schools that are very poorly equipped. Teacher and student absence from school can be a problem. The schools lack resources and the classrooms are poorly equipped.
[b]Megan Foo: Five years from now, where do you envision [url=]The Umbrella Foundation[/url]?[/b]
[b]Aideen Robbins:[/b] The Umbrella Foundation has done a fantastic job at reintegrating so many children in Nepal. They are now showing huge commitment to ensuring the children who have been reintegrated are received the best possible education and support possible. I envision that their involvement with local government schools will continue to grow. They will continue to support schools by providing teacher training, better toilet facilities, libraries and making improvements to classrooms. This hopefully will also give parents more confidence in the fact that their children will receive a better education in their home village rather than sending them away from their villages to study Kathmandu.
[b]Megan Foo: What advice would you give to prospective teachers?[/b]
[b]Aideen Robbins:[/b] Expect the unexpected. Be ready for an adventure that for me included many things from being asked to take part in a Bollywood movie to sleeping on a wooden floor in a one room house with a family of five. At times volunteering in local schools and with local teachers in Nepal is frustrating when you are used to the facilities provided in schools in more developed countries. I currently work in an International school in Kazakhstan where a problem is when the coffee machine doesn’t work, where as in a school like Gatlang a problem was trying to figure out how to fit sixty children in a classroom smaller in size than my current classwork where I teach a maximum of twenty children.

Must be logged in to comment.