Heather Natola’s Volunteering Experience
Ever wonder what it may feel like to volunteer in the field for Humans for Education? Do you ever ponder upon the idea of using your skills and talents in an entirely different country? What is it like to be in a developing country, and witness an entirely different atmosphere of life? Perhaps the experience of one of our dental clinic volunteers, Heather Natola, will provide you with more insight on the Humans for Education volunteering experience.
As this certainly was not a typical internship, Heather Natola stepped into an entirely different world of experiences during her trip to Kenya. Prior to setting up the dental clinic, the team enjoyed the moment of being surrounded in a different environment, as they spontaneously stopped to pet giraffes. As Heather put it, “It was awesome!” Being in an entirely different hemisphere of the world, they couldn’t have predicted what they would encounter. With plenty of new animal experiences, they had the opportunity to witness monkeys racing across the roof early in the morning.
Additionally, they faced many other obstacles unknown to your ordinary internship. On the first day, Heather and Daphne taught a class on reproductive health for Destiny Primary School teachers. As they led their discussions on puberty, sexual health, fertility, and menopause, with children present in the next room, the torrential downpour roared over them to the extent that they had to literally shout to be heard. That’s something you wouldn’t forget anytime soon!
Only having a crash course in the procedures, they quickly grasped their jobs as dental assistants, picking up on how to fill out the dental charts, grab the correct tools, and when to offer the cotton squares to wipe off plaque. They learned to count teeth, fill out bit charts, and of course, to remain motionless when giant wasps were attracted to trays of spit. They even learned how to say “come,” “open,” “close,” and “bite” in Swahili, since some children were still learning English.
Putting Your Abilities to the Test
This was a hands on experience, in which Heather had to use her skills and abilities to overcome challenges while volunteering. Despite the fact the students and teachers at Destiny Shaper spoke English, they still had difficulty understanding her, due to her New Hampshire accent. To tackle the issue, they finished the lessons in small groups, and she put her notes in front of them, so instead they could read along.
The intense rain was an additional obstacle. Heather puts it best when she said, “I have struggled to communicate before, but never because the rain was too loud for me to be heard. Talk about a “next level” for voice projection!”
Thanks to her practice in discussing science with seminars and Thinkers and Drinkers, she was mindful of her use of jargon terms. She also used her lab experiences to organize the tools so it who make sense to the three assistants, despite the fact they were not experts. She also knew, being a scientist for six years, that she had to go with the flow, just as she did when they waited to meet a teacher who needed to walk through three miles in the mud.
The Joy of the Journey
Heather had an incredible journey with Humans for Education. All the obstacles and challenges they faced were just a bonus in the experience. Even though she was around strangers, she felt very welcomed and safe. She constantly looks back to this wonderful trip she had, and made many warm memories in the experience.
“I cherish the hair clips and drawings that the children gave me, and I keep watching the video of their welcoming ceremony on my phone. I have never felt so appreciated as I did walking into the school, when all the children ran up to grab our hands and show us where to sit.” -Heather Natola
Despite her original idea for herself, that she would do an internship sitting at a desk and looking professional, she gladly swapped that ordinary internship for her adventure with Humans for Education. Take it from Heather, “While a more traditional internship may be right for some, I am eternally grateful for this experience, and I cannot recommend Humans for Education enough to those who are interested in a slightly different path.”