Thompson Rivers University

International volunteer program helps employees Leave for Change

March 3, 2016

Kelly Warnock (fourth from left), instructional designer, during her volunteer Leave 4 Change assignment in Vietnam.

During a three-week professional volunteer stint last summer, Stephanie Chaput, a TRU biology lab instructor, found herself in Lima, Peru helping to develop science curriculum for young girls. With no computers, no internet and no equipment, she had to get creative.

“I wanted to demonstrate photosynthesis, but had no budget. So, I got the class to gather leaves and dirt and went from there,” said Chaput, reflecting on her experience of teaching without resources. “I learned to do more with less. This is just their reality. So I had to be open to thinking of new ways to teach.”

Chaput was one of two TRU employees to participate in Leave for Change (L4C), a capacity-building initiative that matches the needs of partners in developing countries with the skills and knowledge of individuals at Canadian partner institutions.

The program is open to all full-time employees in any department (faculty or staff) who have passed their probationary period. It’s also free for TRU employees—they contribute their vacation time (three to four weeks depending on the posting) and the rest is covered by TRU and L4C.

Kelly Warnock, an instructional designer at TRU and the other inaugural participant, says the travel experience itself was a blast, and also echoes Chaput’s sentiments about having to be patient and flexible. Warnock spent three weeks in Vinh Long, Vietnam last fall, teaching lesson plan design and educational technology.

“I had to lower my expectations about what I wanted to accomplish in just a few weeks, but it’s also about supporting a growing community of practice. I realized the impact when their teachers shared with me how they would use my lesson plan template and some of the digital tools I introduced,” said Warnock.

L4C is run under an umbrella organization called Uniterra, a leading Canadian international volunteer cooperation program of which TRU became a member in April 2015.

Director of Global Engagement Lian Dumouchel says TRU has a mandate, and budget, for increasing development capacity.

“It’s a very good investment in employee development, and supports our overall goal of strengthening international connections,” she said, noting TRU is committed to sponsoring up to four employees annually, at an institutional cost of $6,000 each.

Volunteer experiences are available in 12 different countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia and postings in a variety of occupations, from teaching to computing to marketing, occur between May 1 and Dec. 31.

The 2016 application deadline is Apr. 11. To learn more, attend an information session with Dumouchel, Chaput and Warnock during IDays on Thursday, Mar. 17 at 2:30 in the Barber Centre in the House of Learning, or visit the Leave for Change website.

For more information:

Lian Dumouchel
Director of Global Engagement

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