First day of school

Trip Start May 18, 2007
1
8
43
Trip End Jul 28, 2007


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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

I have to keep this short for now - will write more, hopefully tomorrow at the end of the day.

First day of school today - volunteering at the Maldonado school in a very very poor part of the not-quite-suburbs of Arequipa. Nineteen kids were there today (3 out sick). I'm teaching four Grade 3 kids.

The Grades 1, 2, and 3, kids are all in one same room, and the 4-5-6 are upstairs in another classroom. One Peruvian teacher per classroom, approximately 2 volunteers per classroom.

The children are sweet, affectionate, cute - of course, they're kids. They're also from very poor families; many from broken homes; some are abused, others are neglected, most are malnourished, all range from dirty to filthy. Yet - they are children like any others, and have smiles that light up the room.

We feed them, help wash them, teach them to brush their teeth and scrub their hands, give them some water, and throughout all this also try to squeeze in some actual teaching. The GVI volunteers do a great job of complementing the teaching that the two Peruvian teachers can provide to a full contingent of 22 kids covering all 6 grades. This means that we teach in Spanish. I wasn't sure my Spanish was up to snuff to actually "teach" - after today, no problem. We're talking Grade 3 math, reading and writing, and other topics that I can handle fairly easily in Spanish, so no major problem.

Today, however, I also inherited a special task. Since almost all the kids are sick with colds, coughs, and who knows what else (sore throats - hopefully not strep...), they were all taken to the clinic yesterday by GVI, and most were prescribed antibiotics and other things. Because we cannot count on the families to properly administer the medicine at home, the volunteers at school are managing that. It's now my (nearly full-time) job, for the next 8-10 days. Just call me "Florence Nightingale". For anyone wondering, I did bring with me my own prescription of antibiotics, in case I get sick. After this week, I won't be surprised if I catch something...

In many ways, it does remind me a lot of teaching in Japan on the JET Program... 15 years ago! Of course, the conditions are not the same, but truth be told, some of the conditions were not that much better in Japan, in some cases... All in all, though, these kids here have it very tough, and I'd love to find out, in a few years, how many are able to break out of the vicious circle they seem to be caught in.

I have to run for now - more tomorrow and Thursday, with pictures.

I visited the Monastery of Santa Catalina yesterday -- it's listed in the book "1000 Places to See Before You Die" -- and I can't wait to post some of the pictures. What an unbelievably beautiful place...

Take care for now -
H
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