Wednesday, October 6, 2010

volunteering in Guate

For the past three weeks Tommy and I have been volunteering with a wonderful organization here in Antigua called Nuestros Ahijados. It's "God's Child" in English. Our motive was three-fold -- practice Spanish, learn more about life in Guatemala and give back to the community we've called home from the past five weeks. I'm confident we accomplished all three.

Nuestro Ahijados' mission is to eliminate poverty through education. They have a number of services or focus areas including a homeless shelter, malnourished infant center, home construction, human trafficking and two schools. They do amazing work. Tommy and I volunteered at one of their schools, Centro Scheel, in the slums of Jocotenango (a city just outside of Antigua).

It was an incredibly eye-opening experience. Students in this elementary and middle school range from ages 6 - 28. Most have not been attending school regularly for various reasons and it wasn't uncommon to find a range of 5-7 years of age in one grade. The school is an affordable and, more importantly, safe option for the kids -- with two meals a day, a uniform, school supplies, a family social worker and more.

We were teachers assistants -- Tommy in a 1st grade classroom and I in 2nd grade one. It's been a loooong time since I've been in a classroom -- years, language and culture do not change a thing. With the school year ending on Oct. 15 the kids were expectantly rambunctious and rowdy -- excited for summer break.

We did our best to help teach -- in Spanish and in English -- reading, writing and 'rithmatic. I really should have stopped at writing -- I'm not so great with the math anymore. It didn't help that the students were studying measurements in the metric system -- a decimeter, what is that?! Inches I know.

It's amazing how trusting and loving children can be -- and how little time it takes from them to show it to you. It was hard to say goodbye to the kids today, despite the few short weeks we had with them.

Vista Hermosa neighborhood of Jocotenango where most of our students live.
Centro Scheel, which is named for the Scheel family that funds the school (and also owns a chain of sporting good stores in the Midwest.)
Some of my favorite students.
Tommy and his 1st grade class.
Not the greatest photo but so representative of my class. Can't sit still, can't keep hands to ourselves, and never stop talking, laughing and smiling. :)

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