July 31, 2012:
Primero, PICTURES/VIDEO ARE TO COME SOON! Stay posted!
Segundo, I can’t believe today is the last day of July. I still feel like we just got here, every thing still feels new. We’ve been here for two going on three weeks and we still have so much to do and accomplish. Thus far everything has been going pretty well. After the first week we were able to get into our routine and get a feel for what we are really doing here. Here is a basic breakdown of how our weekdays are here. The first things to note is that Atraves has broken down each weekday into two activities and within that our group is divided into two, Jean and I are one group while Brittany and Anna Grace are the other group. So, on any given weekday, our group here is actively working on four projects.
On Mondays, from 8-12 Jean and I are working to build a retaining wall out of tires in the Vivero. Then for the rest of the afternoon Jean and I try to teach 5th and 6th grade on environmental issues such as recycling and composting. We aim to do this through small lessons but mainly through activities with the students. For example, the first Monday that we were here, we took a group of students to help plant trees for the community garden/plant nursery that we are all working on building. The Monday after that, we took two other groups of students to go and pick up trash on the hill outside of the school. I tried making it fun by using a knife to widdle sticks so that the kids don’t have to use their hands. It worked very well for the older students, but for the younger students it was a little crazy. They were all distracted and were hitting each other with the sticks. In order to ensure that the next time goes smoothly, I think we are going to try and make it a competition of who can pick up the most trash in order to keep the students attention.
On Tuesdays, Jean and I’s morning consists of teaching to back-to-back computer classes that we usually prepare for on the night before. We basically break the computer classes into a few different units such as Microsoft Word, all that Google has to offer, and even safety on Facebook. For the afternoon, all four of us run what is known as the “Kids Club” here. Since it is an afternoon activity, we try to focus less on the educational aspect of it and more on creating fun activities for the kids that have hints of learning thrown in. For instance, for the last kids club we had a memory game of different environmental words, such as erosion and deforestation and we broke the kids up into teams to see who could get the most pairs. While that took up the first half an hour of kids club, the second consisted of an obstacle course that was created solely by yours truly. I first had the kids walk over “little islands,” then jump over a hill, go over a log, and walk through a forest. The obstacle course ended up being a huge success as we made it even more difficult by blindfolding one of the students and having another student guide them through the maze. Furthermore, as if all that teaching wasn’t enough, we usually end our Tuesdays with some more work in the clinic. Every Tuesday afternoon the school holds an exercise/dance class for the local adults. Most of the people that participate in this class also participate in a weight loss program where after they exercise, they walk down to the clinic and we weight them. We collect all of this data onto an excel document that notes how much weight they have already lost, how much they should loose, and it breaks this down into smaller goals to help keep them motivated. This entire project is based off of each person’s BMI number. So our job is for two of us, which appears to be Anna Grace and I, to weigh each person, enter the data into a simple excel document, and give them their current progress. One of our goals with this aspect of our project is to create a simplified excel document so that this weight loss program can continue even without any volunteers around. In order to this, I also am trying to put together a small course on excel to teach the “promatoras (Spanish for the group of individuals that run the clinic).”
Wednesdays are similar to Mondays in that we have a lot of physical work. The mornings are usually spent building the community garden, the Vivero – including the massive retaining wall. On the other hand the afternoons are slightly different. For Wednesday afternoons, we work on fixing up the clinic. Thus far, this mainly consists of painting the different rooms with great detail.
For Thursdays, we start our mornings in the same way that we do our Tuesdays. We teach two classes on computers. Diving a little deeper into this, I would consider this one of the hardest jobs I have here. Not only are we trying to overcome a language barrier of trying to instruct in Spanish, there are also several other factors that make this job particularly difficult. To start, Jean and I are trying to teach around 8 or 9 students on five computers, three of which are our own. In addition, the laptops are very old, slow, and require a constant power supply so cords are usually flying everywhere. The room itself is very tiny and often incredibly hard to navigate, as it is filled with many things in storage, to go around and help the students. The computers themselves have different versions of the programs we are trying to teach the students in which makes a standardized demonstration nearly impossible. Furthermore, we have two separate classes that we are responsible for teaching. The first class is a group of scholarship kids, chosen by the school, that seem to have had less experience with using computers than the regular students which are in the following class. In addition, within each class there are clearly a variety of experience levels even within each class. We have been finding it incredibly difficult to keep the advanced kids entertained while still keeping the kids with less experience motivated to learn more, even with a steeper learning curve. Even with all of these minor roadblocks, I really feel that the classes have been going well. I’ve come to notice that I’m not the type of person that gets frustrated or upset with how things went. I’d rather be happy with what we did accomplish and find a way to improve in the future. Regardless of anything though, the students have been amazing and really attach to you. There is honestly no way to describe how great it feels when a student sees you coming from far away, screams your name, hugs you, and is honestly excited for the what he is going to learn in the next class despite how bad you thought the last class went. It really is incredible how intelligent and enthusiastic the students here are. They couldn’t be happier just to simply have access to computers, even when the situation seems less than perfect to us. Anyway, only one day left to babblewrite (shout out to you, Anthony Ciacci) about.
Fridays, so far, seem to be a big combination of whatever needs done. We have been using Fridays to plan for our classes, prepare activites for Kids club, to do a little work in the vivero/ the clinic, discuss ideas, and even to leave early for weekend travels! That’s about all I have for now!
Paz y amor,