Not your average TA job

Roshan Sahu

Roshan, a third-year Environment and Business student is working as a teaching assistant at the Esperanza Project for his spring co-op term. The title is a little lacking, however, because Roshan is doing much more than just teaching.

The Esperanza Project is a non-profit, volunteer organization based out of the small town of Cabrera, Dominican Republic. They provide supplementary education and extra-curricular programming that encourages growth, both academically and socially.

While the title "teaching assistant" may evoke images of lecture halls and midterms to be marked, Roshan often finds himself doing work outside the typical duties of a TA.

Over the two months I've been here, I've been doing everything from teaching in a local elementary school, to a pre-school, to physical construction of our property, to my role now as a camp counsellor. Right now, I'm helping to run The Esperanza Project's free summer camp offered to youth in the town.

​His diverse responsibilities mean that there are no "typical days". On any given day he might be working as a camp counsellor, teacher, soccer player or performer.

My day yesterday included being a camp counsellor for the first few hours of the day. Then, coming home to my host family after camp for lunch... After the sun's gone down around 4pm, I went back out to the organization to play soccer with some of our students. I then practiced my song for the talent show we have later on this week. 

Roshan's favourite part about his current position is the opportunity to be a part of Dominican culture. Though the students at The Esperanza Project are remarkably similar to Canadian students in their attitude and dedication to their future, certain cultural things, such as dancing, are wonderfully different.

I love Latin dance and how comfortable both genders are at dancing with each other. For example, at camp today we had a session where teenagers came together to 'bachata'. My friends at home would be too scared to ask a stranger to dance, and they probably wouldn't even enjoy it because they would be so uncomfortable.

As with any co-op job, there are challenges to overcome. Roshan has had to dedicate himself to learning Spanish while in Cabrera since very few people in the town speak English. Drinking water is a necessity in the hot climate and, as a vegetarian, alternative sources of protein are difficult for him to come by. 

Despite this, the experience has been enriching for Roshan - one that he certainly will keep with him when he returns to Canada. 

The experience has challenged me to learn about a type of organization and work I would have never thought I would have enjoyed...I never thought I would be a person who is good with kids, but I love the kids here more then I can put into words. They make me want to be better and remind me why I work as hard as I do and why the world needs to be better.

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