Here at Workaway we now have an amazing 40,000+ hosts involved in our volunteer exchange projects from all over the world. From agricultural work, scuba diving, yoga retreats and most things in between, we are so proud to be associated with so many amazing hosts. So we are introducing a new feature to our blog, to help recognise what a difference cultural exchange can make to travellers and to hosts.
Going by the name of 'Workaway Host of the Month' we will reveal more of what it is like to be a host and let you into their routines and how their business have changed since opening their doors to you guys!
Our first ‘Workaway Host of the month’ goes to an English school in Taltal Chile, who has hosted more than 50 Workawayers in the 2 years they have been with us. We talk to headmaster Hector to find out a bit more about the difference Workawayers have made to his school:
1. Can you tell us a little bit more about your English School?
We are an English School entirely run by volunteers and funded by the generous support of the community in Taltal Chile. Our aim is to make Taltal a bilingual city, and through the development of language, encourage more opportunities for the people of Taltal
2. Awesome, so how long have you been involved in Workaway and how did you hear about us?
It has been approximately 2 years now. I heard about Workaway through a French and a Greek guy who were CouchSurfing with me here in Taltal. They described the concept to me, and I thought that it could be very beneficial for the school project.
3. So how many workawayers have you hosted so far?
It has been a great success and I’m delighted to say that we have hosted about 50 workawayers so far! It’s always exciting to welcome new volunteers, and to discover new things about their respective countries.
4. Wow, 50 WAyers!? That must have kept you busy; what does a normal day look like for you as a Workaway host?
Everyday is different here in our school. Our Workawayers all help us in our various English classes with students ranging from 5 years old to 65 years old. The volunteers assist in the classes by working one-on-one with students or in small groups of 2-5 students. We try and keep the classes varied and interesting by including different activities based on the abilities of each group. This can include anything from playing Charades to going to the local cafe in order to put our lessons into practice. We incorporate as many facets of learning as we can to keep things fresh for our students and volunteers alike. Once lessons are finished we usually all head to a restaurant or bar in the town and enjoy the amazing seafood or pisco sours Chile is famous for. The volunteers quickly become great friends and I spend most of my off time with them too.
5. What is the best thing about being a Workaway host?
Honestly, I love being able to meet people from all over the world. What makes it even better is that I am able to introduce them to my home town, and in a way that benefits everyone involved. The students get to develop their English while also learning more about the world beyond the border of Chile. Meanwhile, the volunteers have the opportunity to truly experience what it is like to live amongst the community Taltal.
6. What is the best thing you have learnt from a Workawayer?
There have been many things, but probably the most important lesson is that you can never judge a book by its cover. We have had so many great volunteers from all over the world, of all shapes and sizes, and they all have brought something different to Taltal. I love the diversity that workawayers bring with them!
7. Some great lessons there. Can you tell us how your school has improved since hosting travellers?
Since we began hosting volunteers the ratio of teachers to students has dramatically improved. Before their arrival, I was teaching all of the classes on my own, but now that I have the support of volunteers, the students benefit from more individual attention and coaching. Also bringing so many foreign visitors into this small town has really helped put it on the map and has created a lot more interest in the town. A lot of our Workawyers also run blogs and recommend to other travellers to visit this once unheard about costal town in Chile.
8. Have you got any funny stories that have happened during hosting Workawayers?
On one occasion, I invited some volunteers for dinner. I had asked them to meet me at ten to nine so that we could eat together. I waited for them, but there was no sign of them. Even by nine-thirty, they didn’t show up. I was sitting on my own and the food was getting cold. I was worried, so I called to check on them. They seemed a bit confused that I was calling them, and I asked them why they were still not at dinner? They had misunderstood me when I had said ‘ten to nine’, they had heard ‘ten tonight’. I guess on this occasion it was communication failure!
9. Do you think culture exchange programmes like this are changing the way we travel?
Absolutely! Culture exchange programmes provide the opportunity for travellers to witness places that are normally off the usual tourist routes. They encourage communication between locals and visitors which helps make the world a smaller place.
10. I am sure you receive hundred of requests to come and volunteer at your English School, can you give us one bit of advice for all our workawayers out there looking for a host?
Please, carefully read the profile of the host that you are interested in applying to. Make sure that you fully understand the project, and only apply if you genuinely feel that you are a suitable candidate for the project. Come with an open mind and be prepared to have the time of your life!
Thank you so much Hector, we have loved learning more about your project and Taltal, sign us up for those Pisco Sour nights when we come to visit!!
Do you want to be our next WA Host of the month? We are always on the look out for hosts who have a great story to tell! Email us and you could be in our next feature!