A pair of Mission students are among 18 from the University of the Fraser Valley currently visiting the tiny Caribbean island of Antigua to mentor primary school children about life skills.
Nicole Parke, who graduated from Mission secondary, and Shelby Lund, a Hatzic secondary alumni, are both on their second visit of the Champions for Health Promoting Schools program.
Led by UFV instructor Joanna Sheppard, kinesiology and physical education students visit classrooms, engaging in sporting activities that incorporate life skills into the lessons.
The students are divided into pairs between six schools and teach four, 45-minute life lessons daily, such as health education, critical thinking, and goal-setting.
Parke is in charge of planning, running and organizing an event called the Unity Games, similar to Sports Day in Canada. Antiguan children visit a series of stations that focuses on a different life-skill activity.
“We simply run through an activity and then ask how the students felt through the decision-making process,” said Parke. “After they complete the task, we bring them together and go over what they did. We’ll ask them what they learned, and how can they apply that to real life.”
Parke says she’s always loved travelling and teaching, so the opportunity to combine both was irresistible.
Lund, who has been accepted into UFV’s teaching program for September, is using the experience to further her education career.
“What I want to gain from this is more experience teaching children and building my skills and abilities so that I can become the best educator I can be,” she said.
Lund and Parke visit schools not only to teach lessons, but play with the children during break and lunch. They’ve brought soccer balls and footballs, skipping rope and more, but the students aren’t the only ones learning as the children have taught Lund how to play cricket.
Both Mission students have had experience volunteering locally before their trip. Parke has donated her time at MEI Elementary in Abbotsford, while Lund has been to Edwin S. Richards Elementary School. Both have also volunteered at their former high schools.
Parke says learning methods and styles are similar in both countries, with notable differences.
“Antigua as a culture is very touchy-feely, so at school you have tons of kids running up to you wanting hugs and that doesn’t happen in Canada.”
While the program is designed primarily to help children in Antigua, it also aids the UFV students to decide whether to pursue a career in health education, while nurturing a sense of pride and purpose.
“I want to be able to represent the program well and give it a good influence and reputation on the island and in Canada,” said Lund.
Follow the UFV students’ activities at www.ufvtoday.ca/antigua.