In December we held a fundraising event in local restaurant to raise funds for the GVI Charitable Trust, with our current goal to build a cafeteria for a small local elementary school called Roncador Primary School. This school is in the countryside and it has plenty of students but not enough physical space for all the school’s needs. In order to keep government funding for the school lunch program (often a student’s main meal of the day), it is required to cook and serve the food on the school premises, but Roncador School does not have a cafeteria. To keep serving lunches, the resourceful staff at the school decided to divide one of the 3 classrooms into half cafeteria, half classroom, and rework the schedule to have multiple grade levels together in other classrooms to ensure space for all. While an amazing show of resourcefulness and positive solutions to a negative situation, the situation is far from ideal for learning. In essence, one of the classrooms is divided by a thin wooden half-height folding divider; one side there is a teacher trying to teach the special education students – those that have the most trouble learning -- and on the other side is the cafeteria where there are more than 20 kids eating, shouting and doing their prayers before eating.
As one 11 year-old student wrote in her thank you card to all the Charitable Trust donors who are helping us to reach our goal, “I think we need a cafeteria because when we are receiving classes, the other kids are saying the prayer and it interrumpts us a lot and we interrumpt them too. For that reason, we need a cafeteria and also because it is better for the cafeteria lady and she is my aunt.” The school has been saving money from their small infrastructure budget as well as hosting events like the extremely popular Costa Rican bingo fundraisers, but they still need another US $10,000 to have enough to build the cafeteria. Cue GVI…!
The volunteers thought it was an important project to raise the money to build the school a cafeteria so they do not have to try to learn while others are eating simultaneously. We have been invited to work with Roncador School starting next year, where they are incredibly excited about the possibility of working with volunteers, practicing English with native speakers and doing fun workshops. Knowing all of this, our stellar volunteers took the project to heart. While most GVI projects typically raise funds for Charitable Trust projects using online donation campaigns, this group went one step further and also organized a local event, to raise awareness about GVI’s work and the situation at Roncador, and encourage locals and visitors to get involved.
The fundraiser project is called “Brick by Brick: Un Comedor (a cafeteria) for Roncador”, with donors writing their names on “bricks” to put up on the brick wall poster that volunteers made; once the cafeteria is built GVI will paint a real brick wall with donor names into the design of the cafeteria. After making hand-drawn flyers andposters, walking from business to business to ask for donations for the silent auction, making gorgeous decorations with the kids from Roncador to transform the restaurant, preparing a Karaoke show, rehearsing, and prepping the event site, volunteers and staff were exhausted but so motivated.They put on a fabulous event with a silent auction, karaoke and salsa lessons, where people had fun, GVI’s work here was showcased, the dire situations in schools was discussed, and,most importantly for this project, many donations were brought in – the event raised nearly $1400! While we still have a ways to go to reach our goal of $10,000, we are now one step closer to building the cafeteria for Roncador..
To see the school for yourself and learn more about the project, check out this short video:
Thank you for supporting this project and microproject!
All the best
As exams approached, the students of El Cocal Primary School became agitated and nervous. They were much less excited for workshops and every time they came into our classroom they complained about how much they needed to study in order to pass their exams.
In response, the GVI volunteers and staff worked with the teachers to develop a new schedule for exam season. Now, each grade level (1st to 3rd, and 4th-6th), have two afternoons assigned to them for individual, quiet, supported study to give them the best chance for passing their exams. After an hour and a half of intense focus, the students are rewarded with a healthy snack and thirty minutes of listening to music of their choosing. Then, they have an hour and a half of sports and/or arts activity to reward them for their hard work. The students love the new schedule and the teachers say their focus is improving. This change indicates a possible future for work in El Cocal focused on completing homework and preparing for exams.
Thank you for your support.
GVI Manual Antonio
Whilst continuing with our support of the primary schools in the Quepos region, the GVI team decided to introduce a once a week lesson on Wednesday evenings for adults in the community to learn som English.
One of our current interns spent a lot of time developing a highly successful six week adult course completely from scratch. Topics covered included introductions, numbers, simple verbs, family, places and daily routines. The sessions were led by the intern and supported by the volunteers who did one-on-ones with the students.
Although the course was aimed at beginners, we had a wide range of people attending, from students who study English at college, to adults who had never before had a chance to learn any English at all. It was heart-warming to see their determination as they returned week after week and slowly improved and progressed. The fact that they were coming because they wanted to, shows how important learning English is to the community.
Everyone involved felt that these sessions were the biggest achievement in the programme over the last month and a half, leading to the planning of an expansion to two sessions a week. One of these evenings will be a repeat of the beginners’ course, while the other will be an intermediate course, which is also currently being developed from scratch by our dedicated intern.
This has only be possible with your support. Thank you for continuing to believe in our program.
In early 2014, GVI interns and staff initiated a community needs assessment where a small amount of Cocal residence were interviewed about life in Cocal, as well as educational, financial and medical concerns. As part of this, the profiling of the area also included a needs assessment whereby residents discussed what they believed the community needed. Whilst a far cry from the main issues facing the community, one of the aspects volunteers where able to assist with was the request for adult education. In April 2014, various volunteers got together to plan a six week adult english program that is now currently running on Wednesday evenings at the local school. The initiative is proving a success with more and more adults signing up throughout the course.
So far the program has covered basic greetings and leave takings, basic conversation, days of the week, numbers and the verbs ‘to be’ and ‘to have’. This week marks the 4th week of the program and we plan to spend the next 2 weeks looking at basic work conversation that may assist them in gaining employment in the tourist mecca of Quepos. What is also important however, is that in teaching adults at Cocal, we hope that they may then be able to go home and practice English with their children.
The program runs every Wednesday evening for an hour and a half and offers a free creche service for parents with young children. Previous attempts to run Adult English classes at Cocal have often failed due to peoples inability to commit with work and childcare restraints. The evening classes, along with the free childcare service in the GVI Aula has proved to be a great incentive for parents who would otherwise be unable to attend, and we often have just as many kids come for the creche as we do the English class. The response from the program by both the community and volunteers has been extremely positive and we are hoping that we will be able to continue with follow up six week programs after this, perhaps even offering various level options for the students who may wish to continue.
Thank you for continuing to support this project.
One of our major achievements last year thanks to donations was the refurbishment of our new room, turning it from a storage area to a fully functional classroom/library. One of our major drives since the start of the school year has been to utilise this new space as effectively as possible and this has been done with great results.
Last year we were able to begin a reading program with some of the younger students that was showing good progress and thanks to the new space we have been able to continue this program and make improvements to it. Many of the students we worked with last year still need help and often on an individual basis. Thanks to our dedicated GVI volunteers we have been able to give the local teachers assistance in gauging the levels of the students and then improving those levels, both in English, Maths and Spanish. Literacy levels in Costa Rica are among the highest in the developing world with approximately 96% literacy in people over 15 years old but this is not always the case in isolated communities like El Cocal. Many of the students do not read and write as well as they should be able to and it holds them back with everything they do at school. In addition to this their parents may also not be literate, which severely reduces the amount of help they can expect out of school. Having GVI volunteers on hand to help with this can be invaluable.
So far we have been working mainly with grades 2 and 5 but as the year progresses we are getting more requests for help from other teachers and we are, as always, delighted to be able to help our partners to achieve their own goals. One teacher came to us last week to particularly thank the volunteers for their work with one of her grade 1 students. She hadn’t expected to see results so quickly and such a marked improvement. The students are also very excited about their extra classes and the chance to improve as well as the chance to spend time with the volunteers who are always popular in the school and the volunteers love the opportunity to get to know individual students and see real improvement from them over quite a short time.
We look forward to seeing continued progress from the students and hopefully the opportunity to work with more of the students over the course of the year.
GVI Manuel Antonio
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GVI Charitable Trust Manager