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A day in the life of Virlanie French volunteer piano-teacher

Roxane, 24, is a french volunteer piano-teacher who has been with Virlanie for 3 months. She shared with us how life is as a Volunteer for Virlanie.

Hello Roxane, thank you for letting us interview you ! My first question for you is why did you decide to become a volunteer for Virlanie ?

The mission that was being offered was really appealing to me. Being a piano teacher and helping street kids learn a musical skill was what led me to apply. Overall I really think that Virlanie Foundation is fighting for a great cause, it is good to put the spotlight on the disadvantaged children for a change.

So, you arrived in Manila, Philippines for the first time 3 months ago, what was the most surprising thing to you when you first came here ?

Well I was quite surprised by the heat and humidity at first but what really striked me the most was how nice and welcoming the filipinos were. They were really helpful and friendly. I really witnessed the warmth of the filipino people even before stepping out off the plane.

About your work in the foundation, can you describe your typical day ?

I start my day from 8 to 10 :30 in the morning and from 2 to 5 in the afternoon. Usually a lesson lasts for about 30 minutes. In between lessons, I usually prepare for the classes, I look up for new music to play and also prepare for the upcoming recital.

Can you tell us more about the recital ?

It’s the occasion for all the kids to display what they learned during the lessons. It’s a moment of sharing and everyone is really happy and proud to showcase their talents. 

What do you enjoy the most about your work ?

When I see a child being proud of him or herself, for me it’s the best feeling in the world. When they feel they have achieved something, conquered a difficult part on the piano, the smile they have on their faces is one with such happiness and pride that my heart melts everytime.

I think being a teacher also helps me create a special relationship with each kid. It also helps that I have one-on-one lessons with the children. It helps me create an environment of trust and the child has my undivided attention which is quite rare for them since they are almost all the time in groups, when it’s at home or at school. I think they appreciate being the center of attention and that is extremely valuable to me. They sometimes share things with me because they feel they can trust me, I believe. 

So to answer your question what I enjoy the most about my work is being able to see them progress in their work and being able to express with pride and joy. It really gives me a sense of achievement. 

What in your work do you find the most challenging ?

Well, to be honest I don’t have the formal education of a piano teacher. I myself had a classical piano training which took years of constant work and discipline. I had to adapt to a very different setting. I only have 30 minutes of lessons with the children which is quite shorter than I’m used to. It’s challenging to come up with an efficient lesson plan that would fit this short period of time while also dealing with the specificities of each children. Some have learning disabilities, others have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) so it can be quite challenging at times but all the more rewarding when we manage to make progress.

Why do you think it’s important to teach music to kids ? 

Piano for me is a way to express emotions in a different way. For example a student of mine has even created her own song. I think music helps develop one’s creativity, it improves their confidence and gives them a sense of achievement and pride. Those 30 minutes are not me just teaching them, it’s a moment made especially for them to learn and express themselves through music.

What has your experience in Virlanie brought to you personally ?

I learned to improve on my patience and my teaching abilities. I have already made unforgettable memories. I feel so much love and hope. I really think I’ve never felt more fulfilled than here by doing work that gives me a real sense of purpose.

Why do you think it’s important for Virlanie to rely on Volunteers ?

Relying on volunteers is important as they each can provide different kinds of help in different ways. It’s beneficial for every party involved. The volunteer gets a unique and wonderful experience while sharing a specific skill to the foundation.

How is volunteering life in general ?

Volunteers in Virlanie are lucky because we are never left alone, we are well taken care for. We are provided with lodging and meals. We have also the opportunity to travel a bit and discover the wonderful Philippines. 

So Far, what has been the best about your experience in the Philippines ?

The Ukay-Ukay (local thrift-shops) *laughs*, I admit I am a notorious shopper and I really enjoy going there a lot!

But in seriousness the best experience I had in the Philippines was my Despedida with the Tanglaw home. Volunteers have to spend their first month in one of the residential homes to understand how the foundation works and it helps to know more about the filipino culture.

My despedida was my goodbye party and for the occasion, the children and I cooked together. We played games and they all wrote me personalized message which was really emotional and adorable. We hugged and laughed. It was really a special moment. 

What would you say to someone who is toying with the idea of Volunteering for Virlanie ?

I would say go for it ! No apprehension to have, no hesitation ! Volunteers are all really welcomed here. I felt at home right away, like I belong.