Former Volunteers

Our acclaimed English course would not have become what it is without our many volunteers, whose considerable talents, generosity and expertise we acknowledge with deep gratitude. To find out more about them click on a name or scroll down the chronological list, which stretches back more than ten years almost to the beginning of SMEF.

 

Some of our volunteers have exercised not only language-teaching skills, but musical and other talents, leaving behind and taking with them many happy memories. In addition to the comments by volunteers that you can read below, a few more extensive reports can be read on Volunteers’ Stories. If you are interested in offering your services as a volunteer, please read first the FAQs on Volunteering.

James Woodley

January – March 2017
UCL, reading Spanish and German

“Verbal communication has been the key element during my time here in Paraguay and this opportunity has allowed me to get my feet wet as far as the growth of my spoken Spanish is concerned. The village locals are quaint yet lively, and given their garrulous nature are willing to talk about absolutely anything at any time.”

Jacob Pratt

Aug – Nov 2016
came after graduating in Chemistry from St Catherine’s, Oxford.
“The teaching is great fun and it’s been a fantastic experience to have full control of the lessons. You’re not an assistant here, you’re the teacher. What’s more, the students are enthusiastic, and the line between student and friend is a fluid one.”

Laura Day

July – Oct 2016
Queen’s College Oxford, reading Spanish & French
also taught French
“I found the responsibility of overseeing my classes daunting at first, but that feeling gave way to pure enjoyment faster than I could have imagined. The students made me feel completely at ease. Living with a local family has been a joy.”

Jessica Honey

Feb – Aug 2016
came in her gap year before studying English Literature at the University of East Anglia.
“It’s amazing to see the real difference SMEF makes in the lives of young Paraguayans. I would recommend anyone who wants to teach, improve their Spanish and make new friends to come to Santa María. I definitely want to come back!”

Danielle Craig

Feb – Jun 2016
came after graduating in French and Russian from Clare College, Cambridge. Went on to a Masters in Russian.
“The students are lovely and it’s a great place to practise your Spanish. You also have the opportunity to organise other activities according to your interests – I had a harp lesson each week and taught French and recorder as well as English.”

Isobel Foxford

Sep – Nov 2015
Lady Margaret Hall Oxford, reading Spanish and Portuguese
also taught piano and recorder
“It is a great place to volunteer because you can quickly become a part of the community, everyone is very welcoming and living with a family is a really good way to practice your Spanish. Because the classes are free, the institute relies on volunteers to teach so your job really is worthwhile.”

Brittany Roberts

June – Sep 2015
Merton College Oxford, reading Spanish and Russian
“I thought Santa Maria was a really beautiful place and came to love the relaxed pace of life – spending hours drinking terere and sitting in the garden; maybe watching the sunset was one of my favourite pastimes!”

Caitlin Ross

Mar – Sep 2015
Bristol University, reading Spanish and French
“Considering I moved to the other side of the world, I could not have felt more at home after just 6 months living in Paraguay and my time there will be a fond memory I cherish for the rest of my life.”

Sarah Peyton Jones

Feb – Aug 2015
Worcester College Oxford, reading Spanish and German
also taught German, piano and recorder
“I was involved in church activities, learnt folk dancing and traditional songs, embroidered with the women in the artisan workshop, went camping with students, learnt some Guarani and visited nearby towns and spent many a happy hour drinking terere with friends.”

Peter Kay

Jan – June 2015
Bristol University, reading Spanish and French
“Your students become your best friends and everyone is so welcoming. Margaret especially is always happy to help, and it’s inspiring to see how involved the foundation is in the life in the village.”

Beth Doherty

Sep 2014 – Jan 2015

Communications Director to Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference

also taught a singing workshop, piano, and a painting workshop which did a mural in Santa María.

Zoe Carswell

July-Sep 2014
Bath University, reading Spanish and Italian:
“I had an amazing time in Paraguay and can’t wait to return. Out of all the travelling I have done, teaching in Santa Maria has been the most valuable to me in many ways.”

Jenny Rixon

July-Sep 2014
Hertford College Oxford, reading Spanish and French

also taught French in Santa María

now in France teaching for the British Council.

See Volunteers’ Stories

Elena Pavan

June-Aug 2014 and July 2016
gap year, then Manchester University, reading Linguistics

also taught Italian in Santa María:

“The teaching is challenging but great fun and everyone welcomes you with open arms. I would highly recommend going to Santa María to anyone who wishes to experience a place that is rich in culture and has a lot to offer.”

Rebecca Beattie

May-June 2014

Keble College Oxford, reading Spanish and French

Julia Smyers

Feb-Sep 2014
James Madison University USA, completing MA in Teaching:

“I still think fondly of Paraguay practically every day! I miss being in Paraguay a lot!!!”

Eleanor Redpath

Jan-July 2014
Durham University, reading Spanish and Philosophy:
“Santa María is a beautiful place. I loved living with my host family, getting to know my students (who quickly became my friends), spending time drinking tereré, having family asados and being able to explore Paraguay and neighbouring countries.”

Phoebe Balkin

Oct 2013-Jan 2014
Peace Corps volunteer who taught children’s English for SMEF

went on to do a Masters in Health Economics in Galway, Ireland:
“Working with such welcoming and high energy kids was fantastic. I loved how my students were excited to see me outside the classroom as well as in it, calling, Profe! to me in the streets with smiles.”

Floris ten Nijenhuis

Oct-Dec 2013
Exeter College Oxford, reading Spanish and Portuguese

also taught Italian in Santa María:
“Santa Maria is a relaxed and friendly town, where everybody knows you after one week and makes you feel included. When I wasn’t teaching I spent most of my time in Santa Maria paying football with the locals which lead to making lots of friendships, some of which I have kept up since I left. Paraguay in general is incredibly cheap.”

Florence Batten Turner

July-Sep 2013
Bristol University, reading Spanish and French:
“I really loved living with a host family; cooking asado with them on Sundays, drinking tereré in the garden on hot afternoons, talking and walking around the village in the evenings. I learnt how to make chipa, I milked a cow and I drove a motorbike. Although perhaps now it is quite a cliché, as everybody who comes to Santa María seems to say this when they leave, it is true that I really hope to come back one day.”

Danny Rees

May-Sep 2013
St Anne’s College Oxford, reading Spanish and French

also taught French in Santa María

went on to do Teach First:
“You don’t have to make any effort to speak Spanish as everyone is so welcoming and will chat to you. Making friends with Spanish speakers is the year-abroader’s dream and it’s so, so easy, inevitable really, here. I was in France doing British Council and only made two there.”

Suzie Hance

Feb-July 2013
Bath University, reading Spanish and Italian
also taught singing and Italian in Santa María.
See Volunteers’ Stories

Rosa Pritchard

Sep 2012-Jan 2013
St Peter’s College Oxford, reading Spanish and Portuguese:
“Being a teacher for SMEF gives you a lot more responsibility than most other year abroad posts, but that has made it challenging and stimulating. It has been incredibly rewarding, sometimes challenging but almost always fun.”

Jessica Hull

Sep 2012- Feb 2103
Cardiff University, reading Spanish and English literature

Fiona Maxwell

July-Aug 2012
Nottingham University, reading Spanish with French and German

Madeline Lawrence Jones

Apr-Aug 2012
Magdalene College Cambridge, reading Spanish and Ancient Greek

Claudio Bollani

Feb-July 2012
Durham University, reading Spanish and Russian

also taught Italian and Music theory

went on to apply for jobs in orchestras:
“My favourite memories were of performing “Gabriel’s Oboe” with the Sonidos de la Tierra orchestra, and travelling to Tierra del Fuego.”

Diana Browne

Jan 2012-Apr 2013
Peace Corps volunteer who taught children’s English for SMEF

Stephen Dunne

Sep 2011-Jan 2012
St Peter’s College Oxford, reading Spanish and Portuguese, also taught Portuguese in Santa María.  Went on to become a Civil Servant (and Treasurer of the Fund):
“I taught some of the brightest and keenest students for the five months I was in Santa María, and it was great to watch them progress. I taught the cursillo too, a riotous class for absolute beginners with about 50 people in it – great fun! I also took up harp classes (it’s not easy!) and had the good fortune of being in Santa María during watermelon harvesting season – a source of constant joy!”

Ben Quarshie

Sep 2011-Mar 2012
Kings College Cambridge, reading Spanish and German

went on to do an MPhil on Latin American Literature, Visual Arts and Cultural Studies)

now living in Hamburg

See Volunteers’ Stories

Anthony Parham

May – Sep 2011
Balliol College Oxford, reading Spanish and Italian
also taught Italian in Santa María
went on to do Teach First

Jenny Shaw

April-Sep 2011
Kings College Cambridge, reading Spanish and French
also taught French and Latin in Santa María:
“The teaching institute is well-known in the area, such the pupils feel extremely honoured to come to class and were therefore always eager to learn. This made teaching a pleasure, rather than a chore. All in all, I found it a really unique volunteering experience, far-removed from the tourist trail.”

Mark Nixson

Jan- July 2011
Churchill College Cambridge, reading Spanish and French
also taught French and Latin in Santa María
See Volunteers’ Stories

Kiel Mathews

Aug-Dec 2010
United Faculty of Theology Melbourne, reading Theology

Sarah Clarkson

July 2010-Feb 2011
Durham University, reading Spanish and Latin
went on become a Maths teacher in Asunción:
“The work which SMEF does is hugely worthwhile as you will see how, through the work of SMEF, young people have developed skills and how, crucially, these are skills which have helped many of them gain employment. It is a project which fits the needs of the community, rather than imposing a view from the outside upon Santa María.”

Alice Gimblett

Jan-June 2010
Brasenose College Oxford, reading Spanish and English
See Volunteers’ Stories

Dorota Sakwerda

Jan-June 2010
St Johns College Oxford, reading Spanish and French
also taught French in Santa María

Emily Yue

Dec 2009-Jan 2010
came as a volunteer with the Company of Mary Our Lady in her gap year before Cardiff University

Anne-Marie Kalas

Dec 2009-Jan 2010
came as a volunteer with the Company of Mary Our Lady in her gap year before returning to Australia

Gabriela Bryson

Oct-Dec 2009
came in her gap year before Northumbria University Newcastle to read Spanish with Business:
“From teaching English classes, visiting the Iguazú falls to riding horses on an estancia, my three months were packed full of amazing experiences. I will never forget the friendly people, red sandy roads and the incredible lightning and thunder storms of such a tropical country. The work Margaret and the SMEF charity do is inspiring and gives locals and ‘us tourists’ amazing life-changing opportunities.”

Richard Coombs

Sep 2009-Feb 2010
Downing College Cambridge, reading Spanish and French

Nicola Hands

Jan-June 2009
Jesus College Cambridge, reading Spanish and French
went on to run a street child project in Morocco, and to do a Masters in oboe playing
also taught French and Recorder in Santa María

Fiona Melville

Nov-Dec 2008
mature student of Spanish at Christ Church Oxford
now teaches Spanish from home, runs a bed and breakfast and helps look after her son’s horses:
“I felt that I received so much more than I gave and I’m sure that most volunteers would feel the same way. It was a very rewarding and humbling experience.”

Chloe P

Sep 2008-March 2009
Exeter University, reading Spanish and French
went on to become an interpreter

Roz Tarry

Aug-Sep 2008
principal examiner for PET Writing, Cambridge ESOL:
“Santa María was a very important experience for me, where I learnt much more than I gave. My host Mum was fantastic!”

Scott Hall

July-Aug 2008
St John’s College Cambridge, reading Spanish and French
went on to work in Export/International Sales:
“I look back fondly on my time in Santa María, and the friends I made there – a heart-warming, enriching, challenging experience which will stay with me forever. The work of Margaret and her team is extremely admirable – making such a difference to the lives of this caring, unassuming and wholly indefatigable community.”

Robert Goldstein

July-Aug 2008
Gonville and Caius College Cambridge, reading Spanish and French

Tom Wroe

June-Sep 2007
Leeds University, reading Spanish
went on to become a private tutor and TEFL tutor and hiphop DJ,  and to live in Valladolid:
“I will never forget the red earth of the streets in Santa María, and the cows roaming freely in the streets, a world apart from life as I know it. I have fond memories of fiendish games of foot-volley with some of my students and the hard earned pilsner and chatter afterwards.”

Tim Follett

March-May 2007
Pembroke College Oxford, reading history
went on to become a solicitor in Lincoln’s Inn Fields:
“I look back on my time in Paraguay with many fond memories. Santa Maria will always be very special to me. I see Luis quite regularly. Strange how our friendship has continued across continents – and how he is now a very well regarded chef at one of the trendiest restaurants in London!”

Michael Orman

Feb-April 2007
primary school teacher
went on to marry Paraguayan Fabiana, whom he had first met on Iona

Lisa Kiernan

Sep 2006-Aug2007
Wadham College Oxford, came after graduating in Spanish and French
went on to do a Masters in Internatonal Relations/Economics at John Hopkins University, Maryland

Mollie Iggulden

five visits between July 2006 and Nov 2010
retired social worker who had taken part in another English teaching project in Paraguay in 2003-4:
“I have many happy memories of my time in Santa Maria and gained so much from the friendship of the students, the family I stayed with and everyone with whom I came into contact. Now I value the times when the student who has been to Iona come to visit me each year and so renew the ties with Santa Maria.”

Katy Hardman de Palacios

Sep 2005-July 2006
came in gap year before York University, to read Spanish and Biology
went on to marry Paraguayan Luis (in photo), and to do Teach First, now Deputy Head of Science, Kingsmead Academy, Enfield

Nathan Lubetkin

2002-2003
Peace Corps volunteer who taught English for SMEF
went on to marry another Peace Corps volunteer and to teach English in Buenos Aires, now back in USA:

“I’m very happy to see that some of my original students have continued with their studies and recently passed high level Cambridge exams. I now live in Seattle with Helen and we have two young sons who are studying Spanish and hope to visit Paraguay one day.”

Benedict Hebblethwaite

June-Sep 2002-2007
Liverpool University, Hispanic Studies
went on to become an English teacher in Asunción:
“The town of Santa María has helped to shape the person I am today. The welcoming nature of the locals, the idyllic tranquillity of the town itself, and strong working relationships and friendships made with students help make living a real pleasure. In terms of lifestyle and culture, it really is a world away, even from capital city Asuncion – where I now live. It will always hold a special place in my heart.”