What I Did on My Summer Vacations

Image Source: Patrice Palmer
Palmer, second from left, with staff of Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce Training Centre, 2017.

Do you remember having to write about your summer vacation on your first day back to school?  It doesn’t seem like a very original topic, but I want to share my experience as a volunteer in Honduras, Ethiopia, and Guyana with Canadian Executive Services Organization (CESO).  You are probably wondering how this happened since I’m an ESL teacher, not an executive.  Let me explain. 

Applying the Right Skills 

I believe that ESL teachers have many transferable skills but when I saw that most of the assignments posted on the CESO website were for people with business experience, I just waited it out.  In the meantime, I was working at a college that introduced blended learning so I was able to develop skills in this area of teaching and learning.  I also managed Occupation-Specific Language Training (OSLT) programs (recruited students and hired instructors) and designed curriculum, so I developed these skills too.  I didn’t know at the time that these valuable skills would land me trips overseas with all expenses paid. 

My First Trips

My first CESO trip was in 2015.  I was thrilled when I was selected to go to Guyana and work with the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) Secretariat staff to teach report writing (including plain language) and presentation skills. Then last summer, I travelled to Ethiopia to provide recommendations to a training centre that wanted to offer more courses and ensure workshop participants were happy with their programs.  In July 2019, I spent two weeks in Tegucigalpa, Honduras where I worked with the Association of Municipalities helping them develop online training courses that will be offered throughout the country. 

Interesting Assignments 

Some of the other interesting assignments that I have seen posted were teaching English to hotel staff in the Ivory Coast, teaching Business English in Mongolia, soft skills training in Vietnam and assisting a language school owner in Kazakhstan.  

CESO Explained 

At this point, you are probably wondering what exactly CESO does?  It’s a development organization that works with partners in Canada and overseas to reduce poverty and foster economic growth.  The organization has been working with individuals, businesses and NGOs since 1967.  Volunteers (called Volunteer Advisors or VA’s) are involved in more than 500 assignments every year.  All expenses are paid (food, hotel and travel), and a stipend is given.  It’s a great way to volunteer and also visit countries where our students come from.  You can register for free at https://www.ceso-saco.com/.  I’d be happy to chat with anyone interested in volunteering with CESO.   

Patrice Palmer, M.Ed., M.A., OCELT, has 20 years’ experience as an ESL Teacher, TESL Trainer, and Curriculum Writer in Canada, including 7 years in Hong Kong. Patrice has taught students from age 8 to 80 years in ESP, EAP, LINC, ELT, and OSLT.


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