GVI Quepos’ 2015 Under 18s volunteering group spent two weeks building, fixing, and updating infrastructure at tiny Roncador Primary School near Quepos, contributing immensely to GVI’s commitment to improve school infrastructure which began with the funding for construction of a school cafeteria in 2014.
Here is what the under 18s achieved. It was a busy 2 weeks!
The GVI team was directed, organized and taught by the talented and patient local foreman, Olman, and his cheerful and skilled sidekicks, Carlos and Francisco. Under their expert direction, the team managed to accomplish an astounding amount of work and improve the learning environment for the wonderful students of Roncador.
The team was able to clear out an entire over-grown and weed-ridden back section. They removed a blister-creating concrete fence, shovelled and hoed the ground to remove rocks and roots, and moved endless wheelbarrow loads of dirt to level-out and re-floor the area to make it a safe and child-friendly area for playing. The swing set was dug out, tearing out the concrete bases that went almost a meter into the ground, and relocated to the new kindergarten playground. We washed and painted the classroom walls inside and out giving the classroom a fresh and clean new look for the young learners.
The outside of the new cafeteria was sealed and painted. What sometimes seemed like endless days were spent shovelling dirt, filling wheelbarrows with rocks and soil, and moving what seemed like mountains away from the play areas. The team cleared out, cleaned and re-organized the bat-filled bodega, used to store classroom and maintenance materials. The job came with built in obligatory breaks when the bats decided to stretch their wings and survey the work.
The school’s boundary fence was water-blasted, scrubbed, cleaned, and painted, which, although somewhat repetitive, had the added bonus of splashing volunteers with water, a welcomed consequence after hours in the sun. Many hours were spent under the hot sun digging drains and trying to avoid biting ants so that the playground and garden areas of the school would not flood when it rained. The flag pole was also sanded, painted and re-fixed into the ground.
The English classes that GVI runs are held in a small run-down, termite-ridden house that leaked in the rain. Part of the goals for the Under 18s was to fix up the house. After the roof and some of the internal walls were removed by Olman the full extent of the termite damage was realized and most of the internal structure had to be replaced with steel framework. The corrugated iron roof was scrubbed and sanded with wire brushes and painted with zinc to keep the roof rust-free and sturdy.
The front section of the classroom was cleared and a big drain was dug to help prevent flooding. The concrete walls of the house were weak in parts, so the weak cement was chipped away and patched up. The walls were re-plastered and given a fresh coat of paint. We even included a mural of a GVI tree with all of our handprints as leaves.
The improvements have made the school a safer, cleaner and better learning environment. The children now have a safe place to play and a re-vamped classroom, the school grounds are clean and the drainage that was dug means that children will be able to play even after it has rained. The English classroom is well on its way to becoming a safe and positive learning environment.
Thank you for your generous donations, which have funded all of this work in Roncador. We look forward to bringing you news on how the children are enjoying their new and improved school.
GVI Costa Rica
Here in Quepos GVI is working hard to maintain our bi-weekly English clubs, which we started in three local school about 6 months ago. We are also constantly working to improve and refine them as we go along. We began developing policies to combat new problems that were cropping up, worked more closely with the local teachers, and weathered staff changes.
Attendance began lagging in two of the schools we work in. A stricter policy on absences has helped motivate the students to attend more regularly. The principals of the schools agreed we could make students bring notes to the principal before they could be excused from class. Volunteers also worked to make the classes more enjoyable for the students. We began bringing snacks every day, giving prizes more frequently and added more games into the curriculum. The students began participating with a renewed sense of excitement.
Additionally, we began working with the local teachers and principals more closely. Using students as translators, a role they were quite proud of, we asked the local teachers questions and created short bios of most of them. We want future volunteers to feel comfortable interacting with the teachers. We encouraged volunteers and staff members to strike up conversations with teachers they saw around the school to get to know them better.
Festivals and other non-academic activities were another way of growing more involved with the schools. A Kite Festival in El Cocal, the most impoverished community we work in, was an impressive demonstration of unity and community spirit. Everyone enjoyed watching the children play with their kites while we helped set up the festival. A cultural day in Damas allowed the students to show off their dance moves and put on little skits. The Jumpstart students were a bit embarrassed when their teachers started cheering for them!
Overall, the English clubs are going very well and we will continue to strive to make progress and address challenges as they come up.
Costa Rica has a widespread problem of a gap between the level of English taught in middle schools and the level of English demanded in high school. New high school students are often overwhelmed by the expectations in their English classes.
In order to help bridge the gap between middle school and high school, GVI Quepos helped a local Peace Corps volunteer organisation called Jumpstart run an intensive English summer camp program in Costa Rica. The camp was offered to incoming high school students, teaching them basic conversational English over four weeks.
Students attended the camp for three to four hours a day. Each day would focus on teaching the children how to understand and answer a simple, conversational question in English. The students were excited to be able to immediately practice their newfound English skills with each other!
The Jumpstart curriculum includes many art projects, games, activities, field trips, and -most importantly to the children- a daily snack. We helped Ramona from Peace Corps prepare and conduct her lessons, as well as conducting lessons ourselves and even taking on entire teaching days to improve our skills. By helping to run the camp from start to finish it allowed us to see the students improve from having little to no English skills to being able to conduct simple conversations. The children were very proud of their progress and eager to it show off whenever the opportunity presented itself.
GVI Quepos intends to start a Jumpstart group in the three local elementary schools where our volunteers work -Damas, Roncador, and El Cocal- by adapting the Jumpstart curriculum to fit the format of a bi-weekly workshop. The workshops will be held afterschool and will supplement the English lessons with arts and/or sports activities, which are not a regular part of the students’ school day.
We hope to continue the success of the Jumpstart summer camp throughout the school year, and look forward to seeing improvements in all of our schools.
Thank you for your continued support on the project!
All the best
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
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