Here in Quepos we have been working in the community of El Cocal for over a year now. There are several reasons why this community was identified as a priority for our work in Quepos. Firstly, there is only one school on the entire island which means that the school has had to divide it’s day in half to accommodate all of the students in its existing structure. As a result, the children in El Cocal only have school for half a day and are free to roam the island for the other half. The second major issue on the island is drugs. Everywhere you look in El Cocal you can find evidence of drug use, and with so much free time on their hands, it is likely that the children will get sucked into this life at a young age.
In order to counteract this, the GVI team in Quepos opened a community center on the island. The idea here is that the children can still receive a full day of education as well as have a safe, drug free space available to them. Until recently, we had been running this center out of an outdoor space we rented from a local church. However, as our various initiatives – such as adult English classes – grew, we found that we needed a bigger, more structured space. With a combination of luck, timing, and good fortune, we found a new center immediately across the path from the El Cocal school. After a little loving elbow grease by all of us here, the new center is well on its way to becoming the epicenter of fun, educational, drug-free activities on the island, and the Grand Opening is scheduled for the middle of September.
For the past several months, the team in Quepos has been renovating a spare storage room at our school in El Cocal, with the goal in mind of turning this room into a classroom and resource room. After a lot of sweat and sore muscles, the volunteers successfully pulled off a complete transformation of the space, and we now have a classroom out of which to base our operations in the school. The creation of this classroom is extremely important to GVI’s work in the school, because it now makes it possible for our volunteers to work one on one with students that need a little extra help in order to catch up with the rest of the class. It also allows us to take a small group of the best English students from each grade and give them more concentrated attention in order to let them progress to their full potential.
The creation of this new classroom has everyone in the project very excited – the teachers are excited because they can now be more effective with their lessons while knowing that the students that need more concentrated help are receiving it, and the volunteers are thrilled because it lets them form a stronger connection to their students. All in all, this is a big step towards GVI’s ultimate goal here in Costa Rica – furthering the education of students in under resourced schools and giving them the one on one attention and encouragement that they crave. To follow the happenings in Costa Rica, take a look at our blog at www.gvicostarica.blogspot.com .
A two week school vacation was coming up and the team in Quepos wanted to do something special for the kids in El Cocal. There is such a wealth of exciting opportunities here in Manuel Antonio, right on their doorstep, that these kids do not get a chance to experience. So we decided to organize a field trip! We got in touch with the ‘Refugio de Vida Silvestre and Mariposario’ which is a private wildlife reserve funded and operated by the Si Como No resort right here in Manuel Antonio. We explained our project and they very kindly offered us free entry and a personalized guided tour. The property consists of a 25 acre reserve boasting the same plant and animal life as the Manuel Antonio National Park. They also have a butterfly garden and reptile lagoon consisting of rescued, caiman, crocodiles and tortoises.
Once the kids got wind of the idea we knew it would be a success as in the weeks leading up to the trip, every day in the centre they would ask ‘vamos al mariposario manana? We had such a good response that we had to organize 3 trips so that everyone could go. The first day we took 1st and 2nd graders, the second 3rd and 4th and the third 5th and 6th and even some kids in high school asked if they could come and how could we say no.
In the week leading up to the trip the community centre activities were very much focused on butterflies and nature activities. The volunteers were just as excited as the kids and put together some great activities for each day. Each excursion was lead by a team of 4 volunteers, they organized age appropriate activities for each group based on what they would learn and observe during the trip. We had art projects, creative writing, word searches, quizzes, butterfly life cycle games…
A total of 44 kids attended over the 3 days! We were even accompanied by some of the children’s family members, which was great way to strengthen our bonds within the community and share a lovely day out together. These kinds of activities can only serve to make our program more integrated within the community itself and we hope to develop similar extracurricular activities in the future.
The staff at the refugio were absolutely fabulous, giving us their time and expertise. We are hoping to collaborate with the future. http://www.wildliferefugecr.com/
The program here in Quepos has been growing and developing over the last few months.
We are always encouraging volunteers to use their intiative and and suggest ways to improve the variety of educational activities we are offering in the Community Centre. It is always great to get a fresh perspective form the volunteers.
Recently we decided to choose a different theme every week to focus on. We thought this would help to structure our activities a bit more.Some of the themes we have had so far are, Healthy Eating, Natural Disasters, Health and Safety, Sports
The week starts with an activity where the kids and volunteers make a poster describing the theme of the week and setting out the timetable of activities. Some of these have truly been works of art!
The week is then filled with a variety of activities focusing on the chosen theme. For example during Natural Disaster week the kids made mini paper mache volcanos.
We are lucky enough to have a few artistically talented volunteers and they have made storyboards telling a riveting tale related to the theme, such as ‘Milly and the Tsunami’ and ‘Pliny and Vesuvius’. These story boards can be colored in by the children and the key English words from the story incorporated into the activity.
The possibilities are endless, for example during healthy eating week we played a tasting game. The kids were blindfolded and given a piece of fruit. They were then asked to guess which fruit it was. Being kids they quickly took over the game with excitement, testing the fruits out on friends and other volunteers.
Next we are focusing on music…the volunteers enjoy having a theme to lesson plan around together and this strategy makes it easier to focus the children’s attention.
The municipality of Quepos is launching a new recycling initiative in the area. The director and teachers of the public Primary School in El Cocal requested GVI’s support in launching the recycling program in the school.
A waste management system has only recently been implemented in the community of El Cocal. Families have been accustomed to simply burying their refuse. The issue is complicated further by the fact that the community is separated from the main land by a river mouth, so all refuse collection involves it being transported by boat across to the main land where it can then be collected. Recycling is a new requirement imposed by the government and the first step is to educate the children of the community by setting up a recycling program in the school. The preparations started a few months ago with the GVI volunteers working on the best strategy to make the implementation of this recycling initiative fun, educational and sustainable on a long term basis.
Three big containers were built from wood scraps that were then decorated with the children at the Community Center. There is one container for paper, one for plastic and one for metal; the decorations on the containers make it very simple for the children to understand which is which. The initiative was launched at an assembly in the school courtyard. The team in charge of the initiative presented the recycling program and explained the use of the containers to the children. They had planned some activities that helped the children to understand the importance of recycling. They also did a small pantomime, involving sorting through trash and asking the children to indicate which container which piece of trash belonged in. The children really enjoyed the activity and it was effective in checking their understanding of how to dispose of their trash in the future.
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GVI Charitable Trust Manager