My name is David Papier. I received a master's degree in linguistics from the University of Michigan in 1972 and have been teaching ESL/EFL ever since, both in the United States and in many other countries. For the past ten years or so I have traveled each year to a different country to teach as a volunteer. This has been fulfilling to me and has given me the opportunity to experience a range of other cultures.
My most recent adventure was in Panama earlier this year through GeoVisions. I worked with a host, Jose, a Panamanian who really wants to help his country. He does this by exposing local children not only to English, but also to art, music and environmental issues at a level appropriate for 9- and 10-year-olds. This is an after-school program held under a tree in the back yard of his house which also functions as a hostel to lodge volunteer teachers. The kids did not have to be dragged by their parents; they came voluntarily (and often early) because Jose's enthusiasm was contagious and because they looked forward to our games and songs. He has an assistant who is a treasure: she started off the afternoons by doing simple yoga and other calming exercises with the kids, and they loved it. We also took a field trip one day, to visit a local fellow who grows and processes his own coffee for sale. We all learned about coffee production and enjoyed some wonderful pastry along with the coffee. For all of this, by the way, there is no charge to the families of the boys and girls.
I think this is an extremely important venture--who knows if one of the kids might grow up to play an important role in his country? Jose's one big problem is continuity of volunteers. Because he doesn't have a steady supply, he has to suspend the teaching from time to time. So I'm urging anyone who may be interested in this to contact GeoVisions and see about joining the program. It's held in a small, cute town called Pedasi, quite safe and easy to navigate. Jose was very attentive to my needs and my comfort and was helpful in planning my weekend travels. The commitment to the children is not every day of the week, so there is ample time for roaming on long weekends. Let us see if we can help Jose out in carrying out his dream.