At VE Global, we are constantly working to improve our programs with the help of volunteers and partners who bring fresh ideas and resources to the table. Last year, Nicole Potempa from the US states of Illinois, worked as a consultant for VE to design a health and wellness curriculum for the volunteers to enhance Liga de Deportes. Her curriculum has brought healthier snacks and exciting new fitness workshops to Liga, as well as fun taller ideas for volunteers to encourage healthy eating habits with the kids. This past November, VE volunteer Ali Unger and her family organized a large donation of sports equipment – quality soccer balls, tennis rackets, basketballs and footballs, among other things – with help from the Chappaqua Community in Westchester, New York. A portion of this donation was set aside for use at Liga and the rest was divided up and donated to our partner organizations, so that VE volunteers could encourage physical activity in the kids’ everyday lives.
More recently, VE Global has teamed up with the YMCA of Southern Maine to add new exciting elements to Liga de Deportes. We’ve implemented a new series of volunteer-led Healthy Living workshops in our partner organizations and we’ve introduced a new motivational aspect to Liga de Deportes: At the end of every Liga, two children are awarded a VE Global water bottle for their positive behavior and excellent participation in the day’s activities. We’ve set up a system of recording these good behaviors, so that the children who consistently participate well at Liga de Deportes can be rewarded with a special fitness-related field trip. Our first winners will have the exciting opportunity to go to Casa Boulder, a climbing-wall gym here in Santiago.
We are very excited about how Liga de Deportes has expanded into a broader Healthy Living program over the past year, and appreciate all the help and support we have received from our volunteers, our partners, and our donors! Thank you!
VE Global volunteers come from all over the world and for many different reasons. Some see it as a nice break from school, an opportunity to expand their world-view and gain experience outside of the classroom. Others see it as a chance to escape a boring job and make a change to their career path. Still others see it as the best way to improve their Spanish while gaining invaluable work and life experiences. Whatever their personal reasons may be, every single one of our volunteers comes to VE sharing our vision of a global community that seeks equality of opportunity for all children.
We are gearing up for another big wave of new volunteers who share this vision. The September 2012 class is filling up fast, with "newbies" hailing from Austria, Germany, Venezuela, and the United States. We are excited to welcome them into the VE community, but also eager to add more members to the team.
Prospective volunteers are often skeptical about the minimum time commitment of four months as a VE volunteer. In the end, not only do most of our volunteers find that four months flies by, but also a great number of our volunteers decide to extend their stay. Why? Oftentimes, they feel like they were just starting to gain the children´s trust and feel a deep bond forming. As volunteer Liz Jones stated, “Because we volunteer for a significant amount of time it allows us to get really close to the kids we work with every day. They become a part of us and feel like family. This feeling will stay with me forever.” Other times volunteers are interested in extending their stay by working in the VE office. Whether becoming a Coordinator or an Intern for Programs or Resource Development, or taking on a longer commitment as Director, VE volunteers recognize the benefits of staying on to gain a varied set of skills and work experience.
We are so proud of our volunteers, their vision and their commitment. As Ron Cutraro, long-time supporter of VE, put it: “VE volunteers are absolutely outstanding and dedicated! I have nothing but the greatest regards for what VE stands for and the people who are so giving of themselves to make it happen!” We couldn't agree more.
One of our main programs at VE Global is English in Motion (EIM), in which volunteers teach English to the children in a fun, interactive way, such as learning body parts by singing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, or learning commands while playing Simon Says. This not only reinforces what the kids learn in school, but gives them the opportunity to hear English spoken by a native speaker, as most of our volunteers are from English-speaking countries.
EIM is a program that runs throughout the school year. During this time, VE volunteers are encouraged to run English workshops at least one a week with the children in their institutions, but many volunteers also report giving “informal” lessons nearly every day. And we have seen lots of success in EIM recently. At San Francisco de Regis, volunteers helped the girls make paper fans, teaching them the names of colors in English as they painted them. At Promesa Niños, the boys play Hide and Seek in English with the volunteers, and shout “Go Fish!” when playing the popular card game. At Promesa Niñas, the volunteers have been working on the girls’ conversational abilities, by greeting them every day with “Hello, how are you?” and saying “Goodbye! See you tomorrow!” at the end of the day. Even a 2-year-old, the youngest in the home, has successfully learned how to say “Hello” and “Goodbye,” because one of the volunteers discovered she could use the greetings in a silly game of peek-a-boo.
One of the most important parts of the VE volunteer experience is the orientation week. It gives ‘newbies’ a chance to learn more about the work they will be doing, settle into life in Santiago and have fun getting to know not just the other people in their class, but the whole VE team.
Our may class of new volunteers has just arrived so they spent the last week learning all about VE Global and the mission, vision and values that drive our work. This includes trainings from local professionals on the child protection system in Chile, learning about Chile’s recent history with trips to historical sites such as Parque por la Paz, as well as getting tips on chilenismos, local food and social customs which will help them make the most of their time in the city.
Of course, the most important part of orientation is learning about the work they will carry out as a volunteer, how to successfully create and run workshops, provide the most help and support to the institutions and build strong relationships with the children we serve. Good luck to the new volunteers as they settle into their first week of work!
We believe the work we do is important, fostering the development of children at-risk through volunteers that mentor and educate them. We also believe the volunteers who do it need time for reflection. VE volunteers do everything from teach reading to wipe runny noses, and while much of what we do is fun, it is also hard and emotional work.
That's why, every VE class of volunteers goes to "Jornada." A volunteer retreat, a weekend away from the loud noises of the city, a chance to take deep breaths and give volunteers a time to reflect on their experiences. It's here we gain insight from our fellow volunteers and learn new techniques for helping the children we serve. On Sunday, we leave, riding the bus back into Santiago with renewed energies to work with the kids and show them that they truly deserve love.
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