As soon as we arrived in La Antigua, we found out about a local school in El Hato village & a volunteer program being run there by: Los Manos de Christine
El Hato is a small village in the mountains, 7kms north of Antigua.
The school has just under 300 students, ranging from kindergarten to 6th grade.
Attendance at school is intermittent; parents often keep their children at home to assist in caring for their younger siblings, while the adults work.
Other children also help their parents work, either selling goods or picking coffee locally.
At school they learn to read, write, and understand basic maths to help them in the future. English lessons are provided by the Los Manos team.
Further information about Los Manos & some great photos of the children can be found on YouTube at: Los Manos @ El Hato
The school seeks volunteers to act as teaching assistants: for the English classes and the large pre-school class. Also to help with odd projects as well as administrative duties.
After visiting the school to look around, we were keen to get involved.
The first week, we jumped in at the deep end, after one of the teachers was off sick & one on holiday. I ended up teaching 1st & 2nd Grade solo, as well as looking after Kindergarten & Preschool classes.
Colin took groups for ‘exam’ prep lessons; those who excelled & those who needed additional tuition.
He was also busy helping the full time teacher with classroom activities for 3rd – 6th Grade.
The second week, due to a tropical storm, The Ministry of Education cancelled school across the Country for 2 days. We went back on the Wednesday, eager to catch up on the missing days.
We both marked exam papers & helped the teachers with classroom activities. I also sat with a 1st grade student who had difficulty writing & forming letters of the alphabet.
To work with young children was new & challenging for us; however, incredibly fun & rewarding.
The children appear to love to be at school. They are incredibly friendly & polite; welcoming you from the moment you walk in the door.
Our last day at the school was a sad day, we said goodbye to the children we had got to know over the past two weeks.
My favourite memories of our fortnight were:
1) Watching Colin play basketball during break; where at least four separate games were taking place at once on the same court.
2) Teaching the kids hopscotch; we could barely remember how to play ourselves (we gave it a good go).
3) Singing ‘Head, shoulders, knees & toes’ with 30 excited kindergarten kids who knew the words (really fast).
4) Reading story time to pre-school & watching their fascinated faces, when I let them each hold a library book of their own.
5) Scrubbing pen off 2nd Grade faces; they’d inked each other when I wasn’t looking (I couldn’t let them go to their next class looking like that – What sort of teacher am I?).
If you want to find out more visit: http://www.lasmanosdc.org/