Alumni Q&A with Tom Pugh
1. When did you volunteer with Jacari?
I tutored from 2002 to 2005.
2. Who was your pupil? Are you still in contact with them?
My pupil was an 8 year old boy and we got along brilliantly. He was a bit shy at first, and it was a little bit difficult to get him to open up about things (let alone to do his homework) but we soon got talking. Despite my relative ambivalence, we spoke about football a lot and read Shoot and Match magazines as we did work on his reading and writing. So there was always a lot of football. I was delighted to get back in touch with him a few years ago and to find that he was studying politics at Kingston University.
3. Can you tell us the most vivid memory of your time as a Jacari volunteer?
It became a weekly request that I would take him to watch his beloved Manchester United at Old Trafford. As we got into my third year of tutoring him, I decided to do something about this and bring him to watch United (sadly for him, Oxford United). I remember getting his mum's permission and picking him up on a Saturday morning and taking him on the bus to the Kassam Stadium (quite new at the time, which shows my age!).
To my surprise, the minute we got on the bus he turned in his seat to face the window and simply would not engage with me. I'd never experienced this before as, after the initial getting-to-know-each-other period, I normally couldn't get a word in edgeways. But he was completely silent and would not even turn around or answer any of my questions. When we got off the bus he started talking again and I asked him what had gone on. He was very honest. He told me that my trainers were not cool enough! He was embarrassed to sit next to me and that felt he could see people looking funny at him. We had a laugh about it as he launched into telling me which trainers I should get instead. Sadly, the match itself was a disappointment - cold, dull and extremely windy. But I did finally take him to watch United!
4. What are you doing now?
I went on to qualify as a primary school teacher and my experience working with my Jacari pupil was certainly one of the things that inspired me to go into teaching. I spent six years teaching Year 6 classes in London and Johannesburg before moving into international development where I now work on a UK-funded education programme with the Lebanese Ministry of Education.
5. How has being a volunteer with Jacari influenced you later in life?
Profoundly. After university, I trained to be a primary school teacher and focused my teaching on underprivileged areas including in the township of Alexandra in Johannesburg. I moved on to running low-cost schooling in informal settlements across Kenya before moving into international development.