My Journey to Empowerment
The word empower is defined as “making[ing] (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights” or “giv[ing] (someone) the authority or power to do something”. In my opinion, empower is a reciprocal verb. When you empower someone else to be stronger and more confident, you in turn are empowered and your life is touched by this selfless action in a positive way. Therefore, my personal definition of the word empower is “feeling strengthened by sharing your talents, knowledge and passion with others, in an altruistic way, in order to better their lives and inspire them.'' I was able to develop this personal definition through my own journey to empowerment with Ingage Unlimited.
My name is Emily and I am a 4th Grade Dual Language Teacher. I was previously a 3rd Grade Bilingual Teacher. In this position, I met a strong Ingage Unlimited advocate, Julie, who encouraged me to take a trip with the organization. Julie’s story of her amazing experience with Ingage Unlimited, convinced me to take the leap and volunteer to join the Dominican Republic team, Team WonDRful, during the summer of 2018. As a bilingual teacher who has a passion for the Spanish language, I have always loved traveling to new countries in Latin America. In the past I had studied abroad in Ecuador and Peru and loved getting to know more about their culture while developing my Spanish language skills in an authentic setting. Yet, something felt like it was missing from my travel experiences. It occurred to me that I had never traveled outside of for my own enjoyment and self improvement. I had never travelled for the betterment of others and of a community. I started to dream about traveling with the purpose of helping a community all while learning about its culture. After hearing Julie’s previous experience with Ingage and seeing the joy it brought to her life, I knew that I could fulfill my dream by joining an Ingage team that summer. The best part is that I was right! My trip to the Domincian Republic was all that I had hoped for and so much more.
As a teacher, I am given the opportunity to enrich my students’ lives every day. Therefore, the feeling of being empowered is very familiar to me. Yet, in my time in the town of Baní in the Dominican Republic, I was empowered in a new way, a different way. There, I developed my understanding of what it means to truly be empowered, as I shared in my personal definition of the word previously. The experience that I had through this “wonDRful” organization, empowered me beyond what I had expected to be possible, and beyond what I was used to in my daily life as a teacher.
In our small group of passionate educators, we led teacher workshops. We shared expertise, ideas, and challenged the teachers there to think about how they could apply some of our teaching methods in their own classrooms, in practical ways. Through these workshops, I was able to connect with Dominican teachers in their native language of Spanish as well as create friendships with them. I saw the light of inspiration spark in their eyes while I was sharing my knowledge of teaching and engaging students, something that is so special to me and is rooted in my own heart. In turn, they shared with me so much: they shared their passion for teaching, their struggles and hardships, their hopes and dreams not only for themselves, but also for their students. Therefore, I came to a profound notion. Despite the lack of materials and training that they have as Dominican teachers, these impressive women still have the most important component of being an impactful teacher in the forefront of their minds and in their hearts: love for their students and a passion to enrich their lives.
The opportunity that I was given through joining Ingage Unlimited empowered me to share so much with the teachers I met in Baní, but also led me to one big realization. They taught me how to truly teach every day from the heart, to make every student feel loved and appreciated, and to be immensely grateful. With these vital lessons, I was empowered not only professionally, but also personally. Baní will always have a special place in my heart and I can't wait for the next journey I take with Ingage Unlimited.
Ingage Unlimited is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to send teams of professionals to communities around the globe to provide training in education, leadership development and community health. In 2019, Ingage is sending seven teams to empower those in communities around the world. I know that I was able to empower the teachers I worked with in the Dominican Republic last summer and am so happy to be able to share my story. Our vision for this #ingagebeempowered blog is to share other Ingage members’ stories each month, detailing how they felt empowered through their journey this year with Ingage. Visit the blog at the beginning of each month to read about other amazing experiences that are happening with Ingage Unlimited.