Teaching Traveling: This site is not religiously affiliated, but it has been interesting hearing recently about the opportunities for teaching and traveling different religious groups offer.
On this note, we welcome South Caroline teacher, Kitty Tripp, who just returned from Peru! Kitty tell us about your background.
Kitty: I grew up in the state of South Carolina and have lived here for my whole life. I began teaching right after graduating from college and besides a three year hiatus, I have always been a teacher… this year begins my 15th year of teaching. As a child, I never had the opportunity to travel, so as I grew up, I also developed a strong desire to travel. In college I was chosen to be a part of a team that traveled on a nine day tour of the southwestern states in the US and this was my first big trip in experiencing the world beyond my life. As I started teaching, I would take small trips to visit friends and family throughout the US, slowly building the travel experiences I always wanted.
As my teaching career progressed, I began working with more and more students who also did not have the opportunity to travel, so each of my trips became a time I also used to help my students experience the world beyond their lives. New Orleans (after Hurricane Katrina), Seattle, California, Washington, DC, Boston, and New York City became places dear to my heart through my travels, but also places my students could experience through my stories, pictures, and videos. I have always had the desire to travel beyond the United States, but with limited finances, this was one travel experience I had to wait many years for. Finally this year, I had the opportunity to visit Chincha, Peru, my first international trip!
TT: Wonderful! Tell us more about these travels!
K: I just returned from the trip to Chincha, Peru. The team was partly medical doctors who ran clinics in the small villages, and I was a part of the team who met with villagers and worked with children, not only sharing about our lives, having classes and game time, but also sharing religion, as this was a trip organized through a religious organization. Because this was my first international trip, there were many new experiences! I have never driven in such crazy traffic with so many horns blowing! There was no regard for traffic lanes, and cars came and went wherever they could squeeze in. In my daily taxi drive from our small village of Canyar back to our hotel, our taxi driver did not like to stop, so he would drive on the opposite side of the road until a car got close. Then he would dart down a side road before we got hit… yikes! Amazingly enough and truly a miracle, there were no car wrecks during the trip!
The people of Peru were gracious, kind, and so open in welcoming us into their homes to listen as we shared with them. I was able to visit the village school during my trip, and what a neat experience hearing how they learn similar math and science skills as my student do. They even shared with me how they multiply multi-digit multiplication problems: a difficult skill for my 4th graders. I can’t wait to share that experience with my students! I can just hear myself saying, “If the students in the small village of Canyar, Peru can complete long multiplication problems successfully, so can you!” While I had a translator, one of the most difficult things I encountered was not being able to communicate as fully as I wanted to with the villagers and students. It was a challenge, but in a good way, but having experiences like this motivates you to want to learn the language!
I’ve also enjoyed other travel experiences organized through religious groups. For the last ten summers, I have traveled to New York City with a children’s outreach program of SpreadTruth Ministries. For the last five summers I have worked with the staff of BT Kids, the children’s department of Brooklyn Tabernacle, directing a program called Summer Fun Week. The week is a high energy time full of games, crafts, snack and wonderful life lessons about Bible stories and characters. My team comes from many different states and this week is a privilege for all of us to love, support, and encourage the children of Brooklyn, New York. We can work with anywhere from 250-400 children, and I’m always blessed by being able to reach out and make a difference in each child’s life. They are so hungry for love and attention, and to be able to bring excitement and fun through the crafts, games, singing, and Bible stories, I know it’s worth every sacrifice I had to make to come. Each year we experience many tears and hugs as we leave, but it’s made such a difference in my life to be able to return year after year and continue making a difference in the children of Brooklyn.
TT: How do you find these fascinating travel opportunities?
K: Each year, my church offer several national and international trips as opportunities of outreach, so I always look forward to when they announce the next year’s trips
TT: How did you find the money to fund your travels?
K: The money I used for both trips came through my savings as well as generous donations from friends and family. So many people know they can’t travel or go to experience what you’re planning and they love to be a part of your work by donating.
TT: Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful, interesting, or funny.
K: When I visited the elementary school in Canyar, the students were all chattering about how my hair and skin was so different from them. Then they were amazed as I shared pictures of my pets, home, classroom, and life; they were in such amazement and awe. They saw things they never knew about and it was special to see their faces and eyes as they experienced something that is normal to me, but to them, so extraordinary. As a thank you gift for allowing me to spend time in their classroom, I brought several puzzles and bags of candy. They were delighted and ecstatic at getting American candy!!! Something I thought was so small, but meant the world to them. Later that afternoon, the village girls told me the students were all wanting to play with the puzzles and couldn’t get enough of putting them together. It made me smile to know, in a small way, I helped these students experience life totally out of the ordinary, even if it was for a few minutes.
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and in your current career?
K: Before my trip to Peru, I had only traveled internationally through Skype conferencing with other classrooms. It was amazing to go abroad and experience an international trip live instead of through the lens of a camera. It was especially touching to see the living conditions of the people and realize how blessed I am. The experiences I had will definitely become a part of my classroom as I share my experiences with the villagers and the school. Since I strive to bring the world to my students, they always wonder how their learning experiences compare to children in other countries. Not I have a first hand experience I can share with them from my travels!
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?
K: Now that I am home, I am so grateful for every little thing from my comfortable home, my car, medical services, toilets, toilet paper, hot showers, and so many other conveniences that you grow accustomed to and realize how special they are once you go without them. Experiencing a third world country opens your eyes to people whose needs are many and what a great part I can play in bringing just a small piece of hope and help to them.
TT: What advice do you have for other teachers who are dreaming of travel?
K: I went through the religious organization E3 partners. This organizations sends groups of people all throughout the world, especially South America, Africa, parts of Europe and Asia, and the Middle East. I was so impressed with E3 because having organized these trips so many times, I could relax and enjoy the trip, because I was confident they had all the details taken care and desired to make the trip as easy and enjoyable as possible!
For those teachers dreaming of traveling, start looking and planning now. Start with your desire and then take baby steps to accomplish your dream, and before you know it, you’re be boarding the plane that will take you to what you always wanted to do! Blessings to you as you plan and dream!
TT: Thanks so much, Kitty! Readers, what questions or comments do you have for this traveling teacher? If you’re interested in other stories of religious groups traveling abroad, read about Tim volunteering in Costa Rica and Bill teaching conflict management abroad!