Guatemala, UPAVIM, children, you.
With such a large world, it becomes easy to think that one person cannot possibly do anything to invoke positive change -so it is easy to sit back and watch.
This summer I realized just how easy it is to help. I became involved in a trip to Guatemala through Nourish International, and my experience as a volunteer teacher has been so much more than I expected it to be.
Even at first glance, the level of poverty in the area surrounding UPAVIM -the school in which I worked- is evident. However, there is something about La Esperanza that holds true to its translation: Hope. It both amazed and inspired me to see that those who have so little, yet they are still grateful for all that they have.
I think that was my favorite experience: the cultural change, especially with regards to school. As a first-generation Filipino American, I think that I was more used to different cultures than some of my other organization members. I have visited the provinces in the Philippines in which my dad lived the majority of his youth, and it was actually a bit worse off than the area where we stayed in Guatemala. However, I was never able to experience Filipino schools, and although it was stressful at times, this became my favorite part of my experience in Guatemala.
I worked in Reforzamiento (“Reinforcement”), an after-school program which provides opportunities for learning to those who cannot afford school. However, unlike in America, there are no laws against truancy. Children are not dragged to school by their parents. Children came to Reforz voluntarily. Most always had notebooks with them, always came in smiling, were always happy to be there.
This is not to say that teaching was always easy. Surprisingly, teaching in mostly Spanish was not the difficult part, rather the culture in which students were raised, combined with the lack of schooling, made teaching tricky. Most days, I would help kid of the appropriate age level in writing letters, reading, multiplying and dividing. However, there were days where I would teach a twelve-year-old how a sentence has a period at the end and the difference between certain letters. After a good twenty minutes, repeating “espacio” (“space”) multiple times to show the difference between a letter and a word gets tiring.
But that’s the beauty of it. While there were few who did not want to cooperate fully, there those who would not stop no matter how long it took. My fondest memory (but also most frustrating) was when I had to teach a seven-year-old how to write the number one. Our supervisor – a native Guatemalan- wanted them to write the number one a certain way (like 1 without the base line), and the little boy I was working with could not seem to get it; his numbers kept turning out oblong, even after his friend and I drew examples. I even had to resort to drawing out dots for him to trace, but he still could not write the number one. After an hour of attempts, the moment he finally drew it made me ecstatic! Through cheering and smiles, I made him high-five me plenty of times to show him how proud I was of him.
THAT, is how one person can make a difference.
It was not always instructional time for the kids, as we often went to the canchas, which was the cement area where kids played. Even in the Reforz room we often played games with the kids. We came to realize that anything was good for them, as long as they were not on the streets. In Reforz, they were not exposed to gang violence.
And at the end of the day, many students voluntarily give the teachers a kiss good-bye on the cheek out of respect and gratitude. As an aspiring teacher, I think this is the one thing I will truly miss the most, as I know this would not be considered “okay” in America. Even if the day was exhausting, you were left knowing the kids appreciate what you did for them. Some days, your cheek would be more slobbery than others, and the “Gracias, hasta manana!” was always worth it.
After being home for several weeks, I have been able to reflect on my time volunteering with UPAVIM. Before I got to Guatemala, I was worried about how the teachers and students would feel about some American college student coming to teach English, but those fears soon went away as we were welcomed with open arms from both the students and staff of UPAVIM.
An average day for me at UPAVIM started with helping to teach a second grade English class. Once class was over, I returned to the roof to have lunch with the other volunteers. After lunch, I then went to Reinformaziento, where I helped tutor students in math and reading. Twice a week I would also teach an English class to some of the kids after school.
My favorite memories from my time spent in Guatemala, revolve around the interactions I had with the children. Despite the challenges that many of the children faced in their lives, they were truly the happiest most loving children that I have ever met. I will always remember my first full day at UPAVIM when we took the kids to the park. As we rode on the bus, it was filled with the sound of laughter and singing as one of the students danced up and down the aisle.
I look back at the 6 weeks I spent in Guatemala and am very grateful for the experience. Even though I came to UPAVIM with the intent of teaching the students, they taught me more than I could have ever imagined.
You guys may be wondering how do I clean? Cook? Shower? Wash clothes?
It’s totally understandable! I had a friend ask me if I was staying at a hotel, which I wouldn’t mind, BUT I am actually staying in the roof of UPAVIM!
The building in which we are staying has at least 5 floors, and each floor has a different purpose! For example, the first floor is the nursery and kindergartners classrooms, the second floor is a pharmacy and doctor’s office, the third is where the women make crafts, the fourth floor is the location for the classrooms for the grades 1st through 6th, and finally it’s the roof floor!
The roof, or my home for the six weeks, has four rooms, along with a kitchen, bathroom, and a pila! The pila is where all of the dishes and clothes get washed! NO, we do not have an official sink in the kitchen nor do we have washing machines! We all have to handwash our clothes, which is terrible because in the morning there is always the older women washing their clothes and they are PROFESSIONALS! One said that we [volunteers] didn’t wash our clothes, we just soaked them in water and hung them up…. [I AM GUILTY]!!
We are all assigned a day to cook and clean! My day to cook is on Wednesdays, and I must say that people really loved my “half-cookings” yesterday! I guess when you only have a limited amount of food and meals per day, you’ll literally eat anything!
Yesterday the shower stopped working! Now we all have to shower with “buckets!” The water, I must admit, has been the coldest water that I’ve showered in since I don’t know when! But usually we do have hot water! And In order to turn on the hot water, we literally have to turn on a switch!
Even though, we lack basic commodities, I have learned to look pass those things and really enjoy the simple basic things! I love the simple life that I am living!
Tomorrow seven interns of NourishUTK will leave for Guatemala City, Guatemala, for their humanitarian project. This summer, NourishUTK will be partnering with UPAVIM to help teach English and science classes in the impoverished community of La Esperanza. Being able to speak English provides access to better opportunities in the Latin American job market. UPAVIM’s English program, along with their sponsored extracurricular activities, helps keep children off the streets away from gang violence by placing them in safe nurturing environment. Our goal is for our interns to return having created a curriculum that can be successfully implemented long after the project is completed. Stayed tuned for weekly blog post and updates from our interns as they document their stay in Guatemala. Hasta proxima vez!
Final blog post! We’ve been back from Guatemala for quite some time now, but the memories and experiences still seem so fresh! We set out to provide supplemental education to country who desperately needs a way out of their unfortunately rough economical situation. Obviously we didn’t single handedly accomplish this but I definitely think we had a positive impact on it.
The IU chapter along with UTK integrated ourselves into the UPAVIM school alongside the other volunteers down there and really got an educational movement stirring. Even at the end of six weeks these kids were transformed tremendously and we have confidence that even though we’re no longer down there they will continue to grow and hopefully be able to shed some light on what seemed to be a pretty dark community.
The poverty definitely shows through their tough exteriors. Crime and violence was definitely eye-opening and we envision a place where these children grow up and bring money back to their community and this abomination of injustice will no longer prevail.
Aside from teaching we really got close with the team of volunteers, Guatemalan teachers, as well as people from the community. It was definitely hard leaving them all behind. We’ve stayed in contact pretty well and always look forward to any news they can give us about the school or the kids.
Well that’s all for this project! We are all looking forward to what Nourish has in store for us next year.
Well the two chapters (Indiana University and University of Tennessee) have finally merged as one supporting unit for these Guatemalan children. Our first week together was spent acclimating and getting into the groove of things. We have decided to divide and conquer this project by placing ourselves in different environments and areas based off of the skill sets we have as individuals. We are thrilled to get the opportunity to enhance the education of these children, but at the same time create these relationships simultaneously to build better connection and trust so they can understand our purpose for being there as well as grasp what we are trying to achieve together. The challenge we’ve come to face is understanding that the Guatemalan lifestyle isn’t exactly that which we live. More specifically we’ve noticed that their perception on education and other things differ from what we originally thought. However we’ve overcome this cultural barrier and believe we can better understand their mindset which allows us to provide a more enjoyable experience. We’ll keep posted on the progress.
IU and UTK
It is the night before our flight to Guatemala, and we could not be more excited! After weeks of planning and discussing our goals for this trip, the time has finally come! Although it might be difficult to leave our home, family, and friends behind, we cannot wait to experience the amazing moments we will spend there. We will have the opportunity to immerse ourselves within the culture and grow throughout the process, so hopefully we can bring back some valuable knowledge when we return. We are so grateful for this wonderful opportunity!
Time to make a positive impact in some people’s lives!
-The UTK Family
We survived our first week of classes! This week was not a normal week. They spent majority of the week getting ready for their Mother’s Day celebration! Mother’s day here is like Christmas. Actually every holiday is like Christmas here, including birthdays. They go all out for every single event. Both the English and Guatemalan teachers taught their kids songs and dances for them to perform for their mothers today. The kids dressed to the nines and gave their moms gifts that they had made by hand. Because of the holiday the kids do not have school tomorrow and will get to hang out with their moms all day!
We decided that the best way for you to understand what we are doing is for each of us to share a personal experience that we had this week.
Carli- I have already learned a ton in these first three days! The classrooms here, in Guat, are nothing like the classrooms in the US. The structure is different entirely and the kids are at different levels. Here it is not rude to interrupt and it is just loud in general. I went in expecting the kids to listen to me and do the worksheets we gave them, but this is not what happened. I realized the kids need one-on-one attention and when I would give it to them they actually were learning how to write in English. I try to speak to them only in English so that they become familiar with the language. I also have a new respect for all teachers! I am completely wore out by the end of the day! After this week I know how the classroom is structured and how the kids respond to certain styles of teaching. I am hoping to brain storms some new ways of teaching for next week and see how the kids respond!
Colt- Well..to get started I’m working with children not in the UPAVIM school kindergarten to 6th grade. These children only speak Spanish which has definitely enhanced my Spanish speaking abilities. I am currently teaching topics ranging from language to mathematics at every grade level. This was a lot easier said than done, because I had to learn the topics myself in Spanish from my co-instructor Raquel the morning of each lesson and all of the corresponding vocabulary. Examples being like finding area and perimeter of shapes like parallelograms, rhombus, and trapezoids , exponents and factorization, or even easy concepts such as subject and predicates! I could obviously teach these in English, but Spanish was a whole new experience; a positive one though. The kids are really responsive to our teaching and definitely benefit from it, so it makes it all worth it. I cannot wait to actually be apart of helping Raquel build the curriculum for the upcoming weeks. I’ll keep you guys posted on future successes and challenges.
Me (Mykala)- I have the absolute best job ever! I work with the Preschoolers and the Kindergartners teaching them English. In the morning we go to the two Preschool classrooms for a half hour each and sing songs that teach kids words that have to do with family and emotions. The kids absolutely adore us! Then in the afternoon we are in the Kindergarten class for three hours straight. We do a variety of English things that include stations, like math, library and house, singing songs and coloring. These kids are sooo smart!! I speak English the whole time and they understand majority of what I am saying, it is amazing!! They love the attention that they get when they get it right too. These kids seriously make my day everyday! They are so sweet! Also a thing with these kids is that they are sooo affectionate. When they leave they give you kisses on the cheek and hugs! Sweetest things in the world! Next week I know what to expect so I can go in more prepared and ready to teach!!
To all our mothers back in the states, we want to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day and we miss you!!
Hola todos! (Hello all!)
We arrived in Guatemala City around 11:30 am their time. Which is on Mountain time for those of you that don’t know. This is two hours behind our normal Indiana time. We survived customs without being searched and all our bags arrived with us! This is a great way to start off our trip. Laura, our contact here at UPAVIM, picked us up form the airport in a taxi. With all our luggage we had two seats left and 4 people….it was very cozy. We had to sit on laps and squeeze in tight. As we were driving through the city to our destination, it was felt like we were watching a movie, but we were the actors. This is totally new ground for all of us so it was very surreal. We got to the school about a half hour drive later and met all the volunteers that we will be working with while we are here. We were introduced to our room which has three beds, some dressers and some plants. Our rooms are on the roof and we have a little garden outside our room next to the clothes lines.
After we got ourselves acquainted with our surroundings, we traveled by bus to the local supermarket. The buses are free here so everyone has access to them and they can pack them pretty tight. Luckily for us, ours was not that packed. First things first, we had to exchange our money for their local currency, Quetzales. Then we headed to the supermarket, which much to our surprise was not much different than our local ones at home. With a little guidance and translation from one of our UPAVIM volunteers, Mariah, we were able to successfully purchase some basic necessities. Upon our arrival back to UPAVIM, we had black bean chili that was prepared by one of the other volunteers. During dinner we discussed what our roles will be while we are here.
As of now, Colt will be working in the “Raforest”, where he will be helping tutor and provide supplemental learning to kids ages K-6th grade. Most of these students are from other local schools and attend this free program after they get out of their school. Carli will be helping the English program for kids in grade 1st-6th. In the mornings, they work on reading and in the afternoon they focus on conversational English. I, Mykala, will be working with the Preschool and Kindergarten kids. We will be working on jump starting their English language skills.
Tomorrow morning we will be starting our first real day here and so excited to be immersed in the school and their daily routine. We look forward to sharing our first day experiences with you sometime soon!
Buenos Noche! (Good Night!)
¡Hola! … Hola, hola, hola!!! We better get used to this, because we’re going to GUATEMALA!!!
I don’t think excitement can really capture the emotion IU Chapter is feeling right now. If you would have told us last semester that we would be traveling to Guatemala City this summer, I think we might would have questioned your sanity, just a little. After all, we’ve only existed for one year! That’s right, our first year and we’re already going on project! How awesome is that? Despite the odds, after a semester’s worth of hard work and unlimited dedication by our team, it is with great pleasure to announce: we leave in 2 days!
Teaming up with on-site organization, UPAVIM (Unidad Para Vivir Mejor) and our future best friends, University of Tennessee Knoxville, we’re going to be extending a helping hand to the community of Guatemala City. During our stay of 6 weeks we get the extraordinary opportunity of integrating ourselves into an amazing program that acceleates the learning of children of all different ages! What will we be teaching, you might ask? Well, we get to supplement the learning of subjects including, but not limited to: English, Science, and Art. My expectation is that this experience is going to blow our minds! But it doesn’t stop there! We also get to help out the community in other ways, too. We’ll be planting Moringa trees that bear leaves that can compensate for more than half the basic nutritional neccessities one requires, as well as, coming up with other innovative, environmental projects while we’re down there to imact the community as a whole.
To give a logistical perspective of the project there’s 3 members coming from IU Nourish (Carli, Mykayla, and Myself (Colt)) in addition to 6 members coming from the UTK Chapter, who we’re dying to meet. After a semester of communication via email, Facebook, and Skype, it’s going to be bittersweet meeting everyone in person and creating friendships with other Nourish International members. It’s amazing, the chance we get to discover other people united under the same cause of eliminating global poverty, just like us.
So it’s safe to say we are pretty pumped about the whole situation, all together! Both of our chapters have raised more than what we planned on in the beginning, and intend on using the money to fund teacher’s wages at the school we’ll be particpating in, in addition to funding all the projects we we plan to implement once we get down there. Keep tuned in as we update you on the advancement of this project and we’ll keep everyone informed on the highlights and experiences to come from this amazing adventure to Guatmemala! We’re going to let curiosity be our guide and allow this journey to unfold before us.
Wish us luck!