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.
2012 - what a year! And to top it off, a group of GVI staff and volunteers participated in a rafting challenge to secure additional funds for the projects in Costa Rica, on top of your much appreciated donation. A big congratulations to the team in Costa Rica for completing the Source to Sea challenge! Thank you and well done to all the challengers for your stamina, good humour and perseverance. A huge thank you also to all the friends and family of the Challengers who kindly donated to support our Jalova and Quepos projects.
The challenge was an epic 3 day adventure from the source of the Pacuare river to the GVI base in Jalova, Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean Sea – half way across Costa Rica. The Group rafted through the best white water rapids in Costa Rica, and then kayaked through to the calm and wild canals of Tortuguero. There was plenty amount of time along the way to enjoy the scenery, but they also got their adrenaline pumping and completed some group and individual challenges along the way. Rafters were temporarily stranded in the rapids some went for unwanted swims, but all arrived safely, thoroughly tired and with a big smile on their face in Jalova.
Funds raised through this challenge will be used to enhance the education of the children in the community close to Quepos. The Community Development Project on the Pacific coast is working to support the children of an isolated community near Quepos. The school and community has very limited infrastructure and we are raising funds to enhance the children’s education. We would like funds to buy more books, teaching supplies and materials to renovate a room in the school that we can use as the GVI classroom.
Thank you again for your support in 2012, we are excited to be able to continue working with the community in Costa Rica in 2013!
One of GVI’s primary initiatives in Quepos is the English program. Although Costa Rica has an incredibly high literacy rate, literacy is not enough to guarantee future success for these children. In a country dominated and fueled by tourism, the ability to speak English is crucial to Costa Ricans’ job prospects. With this in mind, GVI Quepos runs English programs in both of our communities – Boca Vieja and El Cocal.
Boca Vieja, although our newest community, has a slightly more established curriculum; largely due to the fact that the school schedule is more regular, which allows for a higher level of consistency in learning. El Cocal, however, has historically been a bit more inconsistent, which is why the team in Quepos has focused much of its energy on this issue in the past several months. We are happy to report that these efforts have paid off!
By implementing a program in which we take the five best students from each English class, and give them more concentrated teaching by native English speakers, the local teachers have seen a marked increase in those students’ learning. Due to these efforts, two things have happened. The local English teacher has asked our volunteers to come in to his classroom and lead the class with his support. This is an incredible milestone because it means that when the local English teacher is unable to attend school due to other obligations, our volunteers will know where the students are in the curriculum, and be prepared to lead the class without the local teacher, thereby increasing the students’ class time – giving them that consistency needed for continuous learning. Additionally, our 6th grade teacher has asked us to give her class English lessons outside of school hours to better prepare them for graduation. These lessons have always been available to the students, but now they are coming on a regular basis, thanks to the buy in and active support of the local teacher.
All in all, some major steps were made this month towards greatly improving the childrens’ options upon graduating from school and entering the job market. To stay updated on our adventures please take a look at our blog at Costa Rica blog.
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