Baker alumnus enjoys role educating students in developing country
Baldwin City, Kan. — As a country director for WorldTeach volunteers in Namibia, Africa, Baker University alumnus Bret McSpadden told Baker students about the rewards of educating students in a developing country during a recent visit to the Baldwin City campus.
"It is exciting to gain a better cultural understanding and be able to work independently in a challenging environment," said McSpadden, who received in 2008 a bachelor's degree in international studies while minoring in English, French and philosophy. "We are in a unique position to share skills, knowledge and life experiences with students. WorldTeach Namibia has been an amazing volunteer experience for me and I'm looking forward to doing what I can to ensure the continued success of volunteers."
The volunteers McSpadden oversees teach various subjects, including English, math and science, to students from elementary age to high school. English is the official language but the first language of only 7 percent of the population. Afrikaans, McSpadden said, is the most common language spoken by Namibians. The sparsely populated country with 2.1 million residents in southern Africa borders the Atlantic Ocean and is known for its deserts and average 90-degree temperatures.
McSpadden discovered WorldTeach during an Internet search between jobs and volunteering. He has worked with the nonprofit organization since January 2011, serving in the director's role since November 2012. Some of the children that McSpadden and the volunteers teach walk three to six miles, oftentimes barefoot, to school.
McSpadden has always had a passion for traveling, especially after studying abroad in France during his time at Baker.
"From a confidence factor, the more you travel the more you believe you can go anywhere and figure things out," he said. "In Namibia, I have been stranded out in nowhere, got a hike, got a hot meal and have never slept on the ground. It always seems to work out."
McSpadden fondly reflected on his Baker days and believed his time on the Baldwin City campus prepared him well.