Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March 19-26th: Posts from the Balmoral Hall Group.

If you educate a girl, you educate a family…if you educate a boy, you educate a boy – a quote that had a huge impact on all of us today!

All of the girls concerns that the food was going to be awful turned out to be for not as we have had the most incredible meals at every place we have eaten. Even the meal prepared for us by the local women in Duenas met with the approval of all the students.

Our hotel is great and very comfortable and the couple who own it also own the restaurant next door where we eat breakfast and they also help to arrange all of our cultural tours. They hold a trivial pursuit tournament on certain nights and we have been challenged to a game.

We spent our first day in Duenas today and after a quick tour of Open Windows, we spent the next couple of hours walking through the village. Teresa, the founder of Open Windows accompanied us and as a respected member of the community, we were well received everywhere we went. We were taken to a small yard where a family of five sleeps in a room the size of a large closet and cooks in an outdoor kitchen about the same size. Three families share this small yard and kitchen.

Next we visited a “finca family”, a compound that is provided to the families of the coffee plantation workers. The size of the compound would be about half the size of the our school's gym and during the busy season, 500 people share this yard. I think this was one of the most influential moments of the day today.

The remainder of the first day was spent at Open Windows where the girls read mostly in Spanish to the children. It was interesting watching the interaction between two groups of people who couldn´t communicate but in the end read over 25 books with each other. The children loved teaching our girls some Spanish words and by the end of the day a real bond had been created.

After a very nice meal in the town center, we returned to the hotel and spent some time on the rooftop looking at the lights of Antigua. Each of group shared their favorite moment from the day and as Mr Williams and I had hoped, each of the girls understands why they are here and why what they are doing is so important.

Today was a working day with some girls rebuilding desks, some painting the new desks, some painting the outside of the building and a few preparing craft activities for the afternoon session with the children. The desks are actually not for Open Windows, but are being donated, once repaired to a government school which is badly in need of equipment and supplies. (word was out about the excellent painting and a school from another town called to see if we would come and paint their building as well…we sadly had to decline)

The afternoon was whirlwind of activities with the children that including reading time, craft time and play time. The girls did a great job of working with the local children!

I spent some time in the computer lab on Friday watching a computer lesson and realized that they had a shortage of software and lesson ideas. I spoke with the director of Open Windows and offered to help with some ICT training for the teachers and she loved the ideas. Mr Williams and I spent the better part of the afternoon updating software and downloading some free online programs that will allow the children to work collaboratively and creatively.

Just recently, Open Windows started a teen drop in program that runs a few times a week and we decided it would be great to stay and help out with this program. The older children attend school from 1 pm until 6 pm and after a quick dinner, they have the opportunity to attend the teen drop in program. This program is in place to give the children an alternative to crime or gang participation. Although the attendance tonight was not great, our girls had a wonderful time interacting with the teens who did drop in. After a few ice-breakers, a game of Pictionary was followed by some Dance Dance Revolution on the newly donated Play Station.

Lois McGill-Horn
Developing World Connections Participant

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