August 20, 2010
I really enjoy being around children – Bethany Jenkins

Though working with children has presented its share of challenges, Bethany Jenkins admits that her experience with working with children in St. Vincent has taught her a lot about herself.{{more}}

“One thing I learnt here is how I really enjoy being around kids. I didn’t realize that honestly before I came,” said Jenkins, a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) from Huntsville, Alabama, during an interview with SEARCHLIGHT. Jenkins, who graduated with degrees in International Relations and Spanish, had worked part time at a law firm and also as a mentor for teenagers before joining the Peace Corps.

“I like the one on one relationship you can develop with them. I like listening to their problems and I like helping them solve them on their own,” said Jenkins, as she spoke fondly of the children she interacts with on a regular basis. She has been assigned to the Byera Government School where she teaches a remedial reading programme and also runs afterschool programmes such as a running group and a Brownie Pack. Jenkins also teaches a life skills programme at the Marion House at Georgetown.

Arriving in St.Vincent in August 2008, Jenkins was initially assigned to the Byera Government School to work in the area of Youth Development, but the issue of remedial reading stood out as the most critical issue to be addressed.

Working with children from grades two to six, Jenkins, along with another teacher at the school, assessed the students’ reading levels and created programmes to target specific reading deficiencies.

“I sort of tailored the programmes to meet their individual needs. A lot of the kids don’t learn from traditional chalk and talk, so what I had to do was take a slightly different approach, find out what kind of learners they are,” Jenkins explained.

Similar to the other remedial programmes described by fellow PCVs, Jenkins has seen some improvement in the children’s behaviour, as their reading skills developed.

“It’s really rewarding seeing them gain confidence in the classroom, even if their reading improves only a little bit, their confidence is improving a lot because a lot of them just need a little extra attention, a little one on one time to give them the boost they need to succeed on their own,” Jenkins explained.

The Brownie Pack and the running group have also been major successes Jenkins explained. Living in the Byera community for almost two years, Jenkins has observed that there is a lack of youth empowerment and involvement of parents in the schools. She has, however, tried to help where she can.

“Young girls need a little bit more self empowerment. I think that needs to be addressed. I have tried to do a bit of that, but…in what little way that I can. I think that there should be more opportunities for kids to do things to keep them off the street,” Jenkins explained.

Jenkins plans to leave St. Vincent by the end of the year, but hopes to continue with the aforementioned programmes, adding a summer Spanish programme to the bunch. She, however, wishes to develop more activities within the community to foster youth involvement.

Jenkins will pursue a master’s degree in School Counseling upon her return to the states. She will, however, remember her time in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and “the friendly, humble nature of Vincentians”.