Feliz Navidad y un muy Prospero Ano Nuevo!
Thank you for all your support in 2013, we've had a fantastic year thanks to your support. Through the funds raised through GlobalGiving, we were able to successfully start a major construction initiative with our partners at the El Cocal school!
This month we have seen a particular improvement in our English Teaching program at El Cocal Primary School. The students and teachers have been much more engaged in our classes and we have seen more children coming to the community centre to learn outside of their classes as well.
One of GVI’s main goals worldwide is to help improve and encourage education in places where it is less accessible or less encouraged. One of the eight UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) deals directly with this issue, which is also linked to another MDG, that covering poverty. Many people in the world lack access to good education and it is this that holds them back when it comes to finding a better job later in life. In general, education in Costa Rica is good and well-funded, but this funding tends to be concentrated in certain geographical areas. El Cocal, the community in which GVI volunteers work, receives little funding and is quite resource-poor; this leads to difficulties for teachers and students alike. Partly due to this, but also because of other problems, students will often not go on to high school after leaving primary school. Many may be too busy helping at home or working elsewhere, some may just not be academically strong enough, and others might choose to continue their education later when they have more time, perhaps in evening classes. Given this knowledge, it is particularly important for the students to improve their access to better jobs whenever possible, and speaking English is one of the best ways they can improve their job prospects. Tourism is one of Quepos’ biggest industries and Costa Rica as a whole attracted 2 million foreign visitors in 2008. Many of these visitors come from English speaking countries, so being able to communicate with them is key, and opens a wealth of opportunities.
Our English Teaching volunteers have been working especially hard to integrate a new curriculum into the current classes. We have worked closely with the local teachers to find a system that works well for them and makes the best use of the volunteers and have also looked to make planning a little simpler for the volunteers. This makes it much easier for volunteers to focus on improving the knowledge of the students and increasing their vocabulary and confidence with the English language. Having this new system in place should make it easier for the local teachers to be involved with the classes and with planning as the whole progression from absolute basics upwards is mapped out and simplified.
We have also started to teach specific conversation classes with grade 6 students and this has shown a lot of growth. The students enjoy these types of classes a lot and really engage with them. The local teachers have also been very happy with the improvement and the interest of the students gives extra encouragement to the teachers.
One highlight of the last month was watching students playing a game during break time that they learned during an English class. The local teacher showed them this game as a way of teaching colours and shapes in English and they enjoyed it so much that they continued playing, in a mix of Spanish and English, for the next few days.
As ever we are incredibly grateful for your support.These achievements would not be possible without your involvement.
All the best
Our achievement this month follows from the construction we did back in August. The work done in the classroom was always intended as a work in progress and this month we have moved so much closer to our goal of having a fully refurbished classroom, ready to use and bursting with resources. We have some beautiful paintwork on the walls and plans to complete all the painting and a new bookshelf within the next week. From there we have plans in place to tile the floor including floor mosaics as well as having a reading area complete with storytelling chair, an art gallery area and a learning area.
These plans may not be quite completed yet but we are already using the classroom to great effect. We have held English classes in there for a while but our most recent successes have been working individually with certain students to help them push forward, working with the whole of grade 1 in reading workshops and the whole of grade 4 in maths workshops.
One of our goals for next month is to run a fund raising event to raise money for the completion of the room and extra resources for the students to use. We would like to make this classroom not only a space to learn maths, reading and English, but also a place to practice arts, music, dancing and hopefully also a place from which we can encourage more diverse sports within the school. One of the students recently won gold in the Under 18s World Body Boarding Championship. This is a community with extremely talented individuals and this classroom should help give them all an opportunity to discover and realise their potential.
Thank you for your support and we look forward to sharing how the Fundraising Challenge goes!
Costa Rica Community Programs Manager
Thanks to our very generous donors such as yourself, the GVI Community Development Project in Quepos, Costa Rica, has been hard at work throughout July and August on a major construction initiative with our partners at the El Cocal school.
Funded by GVI Charitable Trust donations, GVI Construction volunteers and GVI Under18s volunteers, GVI Quepos vastly boosted the school’s small building repair budget and made possible this multi-part project.
The initial plans came from discussions between GVI and the school’s director regarding an old classroom that had fallen into disrepair and became a de facto storage unit for old building materials. In a school that already has very tight space and few resources, GVI staff wondered if remodeling that classroom might allow for new education initiatives at the school, such as a library and much-needed quiet space for homework help, as well as providing a much more stimulating environment for students who were using part of the abandoned classroom for extra English classes from GVI volunteers. Unfortunately, the school had no way to reclaim the classroom as they had no closed space to put the materials stored within. GVI offered to support the school to remedy this, and found a local foreman to design a plan for a new bodega (storage warehouse) within the school’s small space, and a remodel of the classroom, including replacing the entire cement floor, previously damaged in an earthquake. To this already exciting endeavor, the school suggested two further changes, making it a four-part plan: a cement floor to be poured in the covered sports area (the entire community of El Cocal is built on sand) a covered cement entranceway from the school gate to the classroom area. The sports area doubles as the assembly area for special event days, graduations, and the like, thus a cement floor would add great value to the space, as well as allow the children could play sports, such as basketball, that require a solid floor.
The school raised the money for the roof of the covered area in their annual kite festival, but did not have the funds needed for the floor. Thanks to GVI volunteers and GVI Charitable Trust donors, the school now has that floor. Putting in incredible amounts of hard work every day, GVI Under18 volunteers, GVI Construction volunteers and GVI Quepos community volunteers hauled bags of sand and rock for weeks, shoveled mountains of sand to level the floors, broke up cement floors & poured new ones and generally gave their all to make this project a reality. Thanks to them, we have already replaced the destroyed classroom floor, poured a brand new level floor in the sports area, and are well on our way to finishing the bodega. This new sports area will allow GVI volunteers to engage the children in sports, even in rainy or extremely hot conditions, adding this important extracurricular into to their daily schedule. The space will also now allow parents and students alike to enjoy a lovely, clean space for assemblies and events. GVI Arts volunteers will be working with students from the school regarding the design, décor and plans for the new classroom and library, to be finished before the end of this year. GVI volunteers will continue to give extra English support in the classroom, as well as offering reading assistance and homework help in the new library. Outside of class time, the library space will offer a much needed quiet place for one-on-one tutoring help for students and even adult English classes for parents and community members.
The covered entranceway, to keep the children dry on rainy days, is the final point in the four-part plan, and construction is scheduled to begin later this year.
Thank you so much for your support so far. I hope you are as excited as we are to see this project finally get underway. We look forward to bringing you the final product later this year.
Somehow the idea of kite flying seems relegated to popular literature and classic films. It conjures up images of small children in flat caps on a heath somewhere near London, ideally with a somewhat magical nanny lurking nearby, or possibly a Middle Eastern cityscape. You probably wouldn’t think of a tropical island community fundraising event. However, in El Cocal at least, that is exactly what kites mean. For a number of years now the school has run a kite related weekend to raise much needed funds for resources, structural improvements and generally to subsidise it’s meagre budget. Last year the event raised more money than the yearly budget itself, which gives an idea of why it is so important to the school and why they were so keen for us to be involved.
This being Costa Rica it wasn’t entirely clear what would be happening or exactly when. What we did know is that there would be kites. The Wednesday before the event saw the whole school day abandoned in favour of sitting in their outside area making kites from string, tissue paper and bamboo. The decoration was mostly left to the kids, whose artistic talent never ceases to amaze. For the next two days we had a regular stream of children from the school coming into the community centre and asking for help with their kites, be it help putting one together from scratch or simply repairing a small tear in the paper that was so lovingly placed over the frame. We even had a couple of people practising/showing off their kite flying ability.
With so much build up it would be difficult not to be excited for the weekend, and it did not disappoint. Saturday was race day and was organised by a group from Quepos. Although the kite festival has been happening for a while now the race is a new addition. I was very happy to see so many of the children from the school taking part in the junior event, and I was delighted to be able to run in the adult event – 8km along the beach in beautiful weather.
Sunday was a little less sunny but had a crucial breeze to get the kites going, and by the time we arrived the sky was literally full of kites. I have never seen so many outside of Mary Poppins or the Kite Runner, and it still seems quite miraculous that more people didn’t get their lines tangled in trees and other kites. I was helping to unhook a few lines while other GVI people were helping to judge the event and two of our volunteers had actually entered the competition. Unfortunately their kite tore almost as soon as it was airborne but there were no shortage of children around to help with flying or even extending the lines to get the kites even higher.
In all I would say it was a very successful event for a number of reasons. Firstly of course the money raised, which will go to much needed resources for the school, a process that we are hoping to be able to aid with GVI Charitable Trust money and construction/arts volunteers. Secondly it brought a community together in a place where people often don’t mingle and don’t interact as a whole. It was fantastic to see so many children there with family and friends, and so many people in general having a good time in such a simple and inclusive way.
The more that GVI can support its partners in their own ventures, and the more we can encourage community interaction, the closer we come to achieving our project goals of empowering local people to stand up and make things better for themselves.
The GVI team in Quepos, Costa Rica, is still going strong in our new community center, La Casa del Sol. Our team and the town of El Cocal have seen the huge impact that GVI has had thus far in the short amount of time we have occupied the Casa. The children return every day for hours of enjoyment with volunteers and school friends alike. Students in El Cocal only have school in for three hours every day since the teachers are in charge of two grades each and must split the day accordingly. When the students are not in school, they change out of their uniforms and return to the Casa, ready to play and learn.
There is no art curriculum in the school of El Cocal, and we felt this was a perfect opportunity for us to step up and take charge. The GVI volunteers have taught the children all of the basics and continue to increase the general knowledge of art in the community through new plans and projects. The artwork on the walls of the Casa prove that the kids are now experts on primary colors, mixing colors, shapes, patterns, designs, drawing, painting, and tracing. While we believe all of these are an essential part of a child´s education, the art program has surpassed all expectations by also introducing the children to music, theatre, construction, and so much more.
Music days in La Casa del Sol are a favorite of everyone. The days are filled making instruments and practicing keeping rhythm, learning different choreography and making dances to popular songs, experimenting with different sounds and creating new noises, and even learning to play the guitar. On these days, sounds of music and laughter come ringing from every room in the Casa. Children light up as they experience different types of music and dance for the first time. This past week we even had a train of children and volunteers, with different homemade instruments, singing and chanting while walking down the main street in El Cocal; it was a special sight to see.
Another huge hit has also been our theatre days. With the help of GVI volunteers, children are able to make puppets out of all different kinds of materials, practice comedy skits, create their own plays, learn miming techniques, practice ventriloquism, write their own scripts, and experiment with different voices and accents- just to name a few of the days´ activities. The children have even taken time to make miniature stages for their puppet shows! Construction is also a favorite, especially for the older kids who can never turn down building something new. They have constructed kites to fly on the beach, boats for racing, cars, volcanoes, and houses. Every day in La Casa del Sol is a new adventure for everyone involved.
We are going strong here in Quepos with a dedicated group of children who come every day to be with us. Summer vacation has already begun for the children, many of whom are now working, watching siblings, or helping around the house, but we still are lucky enough to hang out with 25-35 children every day. The activities we have been doing with the children put a fun spin on all things educational, and an educational spin on all things fun.
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GVI Charitable Trust Manager