Beaches, salt water, sand and sun are what most people think of when traveling to Central America during time off work.
However, Lisa Gerrard, police foundations professor, decided to do it a little differently.
Gerrard travelled to Jinotega, Nicaragua, along with her children through Outreach360 for a week during the month of August. This program is a volunteer organization that is set up to help teach kids English, located in Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.
“I’ve worked with Outreach360 through the college a couple of years ago, and after that experience I knew I wanted to go back with my own children,” Gerrard said.
She waited a few years for them to get older, and decided it was time. “They’re at a good age now to give them a little dose of perspective and teach them appreciation.”
Gerrard’s son is 11 and her daughter is eight.
During the project, Gerrard and her children taught young kids how to read and write in English.
“It was up to us to find innovative ways to get the information across,” she said. This usually resulted in playing games, reading stories and making crafts.
These kids live in a small village of few people and had several questions about Canada and what life was like. They ranged from age 10 to 11.
Gerrard has travelled abroad before with her children, but she says this was one of the most memorable trips for the three of them.
“We were completely unplugged. No electronics, no Netflix.”
Gerrard and her kids did the best they could to immerse themselves into their work.
“Appreciating what we have and giving to others,” was the lesson Gerrard hoped to get across to her children, who loved every second of the trip and time spent learning about the different culture.
After the days’ lesson, the family visited local bakeries, went on hikes and talked to locals. “We wanted the whole experience,” she said.
During her previous work with Outreach360, Gerrard went to the Dominican Republic. This was her and her their first time visiting Nicaragua.
Gerrard has worked at Algonquin since 2002, when she started off as a part-time teacher. She went full time in 2006, and continues to work in the police foundations program as a coordinator and professor.
“Volunteering and community involvement is a huge part of our program,” Gerrard said. “It’s one thing to talk to the students about it but you also have to live it.”
Gerrard plans on returning to Nicaragua in the near future to continue to work with Outreach360.