By Birama Ndiaye (YES 2016-2017, Senegal, placed with ACES in Toledo, OH)
When I returned home from my YES exchange year in the U.S., I had many different thoughts inside my head. A small part of me was telling me that it was over, but I was also extremely grateful. I was grateful for all the love and good experiences I had with my host community over the 10 months. I then realized that the decision was mine to either continue acting like this was the end of my YES journey or look at it as if it were the start. So, I started to think about ways to use the skills I learned to give back to my local community in Senegal.
I was able to find a great volunteering opportunity that allowed me to do just this. I joined around 30 other determined young volunteers from the U.S., Cameroon, Niger, Lebanon, Mali, and Sierra Leone to create an English teaching platform to help people learn and improve their English. We named this project “Anglais Kalanso”, which is Bambara (the Malian national language) for English School.
For “Anglaus Kalanso”, participants were divided into four categories: Kalanso Pre-Beginners (Red Team), Kalanso Beginners (Yellow Team), Kalanso Pre-Intermediates (Orange Team), and Kalanso Intermediates (Green Team). Our lessons were given in 5-10 minute videos that were posted on our Facebook page and YouTube channel. In addition to providing virtual lessons, we created WhatsApp group chats for each level of students where we posted the PDF versions of our courses and exercises. We also used these group chats to communicate with the participants and facilitate discussions.
The volunteers from across the globe are all playing their part. We have teachers who are recording videos on various topics, creatives who edit the videos, make posters, and do all kind of creative work, and recruiters who promote our job and get us more participants. These recruiters add the new participants to the appropriate category depending on their level after testing. Finally, advisors and consultants help us when we have to make difficult decisions. Mamady Cissokho from Senegal says of her time volunteering: “Every day of my life I encounter people who inspire me a lot and help me achieve my goals. So, I use Anglais Kalanso as a way to express my gratitude by assisting people who need my help to achieve a goal in their life: speak English or become a leader. I strongly believe helping one another makes the world a better place for us all.”
Since its launch on June 28th, “Anglais Kalanso” has had over 500 participants from over 15 countries and has reached over 3000 views on their videos. So far, we have been receiving positive feedback from participants since day one and several people have contacted us to encourage and support us. This program is of no cost to the participants and all we ask is that they pass on the knowledge they gain.