Education
 Mexico
Project #7444

Educate 400 adults in rural Mexico

by Adeco Acciones para el Desarrollo Comunitario A.C.
Vetted
literacy volunteers arriving to San Jose
literacy volunteers arriving to San Jose

After much duties and preparation, next June 18th we will reach the locality of San Jose Corral Blanco, in the mountains of Puebla. We are very excited preparing the final details for the campaign of 7 weeks in which 30 volunteers will be giving classes to young adults as well as grown ups in the community. One of our goals this summer is to increase the number of students we work with in 2015. In addition, we will have a three weeks workshop where we will relate with children. One of the innovations of the campaign this year will be the arrival of a group of artists -in collaboration with the Alumnos 47 Foundation- who will communicate art through workshops of music, dancing, costumes and textile pigments.

Two volunteers of our group share some of their thoughts and experiences:

"The project of ¡Alfabetiza! has modified my way of thinking. When I found out about the campaign, I did not doubt in participating. I thought that I could finally teach young and older people how to read and write. However, after the first meeting, it was evident that the project does not only worry about the process of learning of the inhabitants of the community, but also of ours, the volunteers.

¡Alfabetiza! attempts mutual learning. We are going to a community with high rates of illiteracy and we will be giving classes to the inhabitants interested in learning how to read and write. Meanwhile, the students become teachers when they show us their daily labors. Labors that, due to their different style of living, might be unknown to us. This interaction allows our worldview to expand as well as makes us aware of the fact that the city lifestyle is not the one all Mexicans have.

Moreover, it is noteworthy to mention the coexistence among volunteers. Participating in a diverse group with different points of view form different parts of the city is enriching and interesting. Likewise, being able to observe the organization for achieving a goal in common. I think this is where learning begins, both academic due to the different studies each one performs and of human development, related the individual context and life experiences of each one." (Megumi, 26 years old)

"During the pre-campaign, I have learned and experienced situations that have undoubtedly changed the perspective I had about my environment; starting with the Freirean pedagogy, which involves reflecting on what happens in our world and trying to change it. Such learning is reached by working collectively. This is something that has particularly pleased me because I have met wonderful people which I am sure will eventually be great friends to me.

In my opinion, from the pre-campaign I have managed to be more tolerant and to be able to reflect on the different views that each one can have according to their life context. This has helped me to work as a team, something that in my career I have considered very difficult.

I conceive in different ways our job in the campaign: in one hand, I think it will be hard to adapt to the community; while on the other hand, I consider that it will be a very rewarding experience, in which we will realize that all the efforts made in pre-campaign were worth it.

As suggested by the theory of Paulo Freire, the process of man’s liberalization can only happen jointly. I imagine that along our job in campaign I will learn much of the people of the community of San José Corral Blanco, sharing stories and experiences where each one of us contribute with something that will certainly be significant for both." (Narciso, 23 years old)

Panoramic view of San Jose Corral Blanco
Panoramic view of San Jose Corral Blanco
Looking to meet people from the community
Looking to meet people from the community
The first training session
The first training session

Every year we have the joy of receiving new volunteers in the project ¡Alfabetiza! This early February was no exception, since we started with about 40 new people interested in the project and in the topic of education. We have conformed a diverse group made up of high school students, students of different college degrees as Pedagogy, Communication, Geography, International Relations, Political Science and Philosophy, as well as by people already with a career.

We started the pre-campaign (the first project period) with a series of reflections and debates on education and social development. A team of experienced people in the literacy campaign gave an overall description of the project to the new volunteers. Furthermore, we talked some more about San Jose Corral Blanco, locality where we will live this summer for the second consecutive year.

So far we have had discussions of our concept of education and of the successes and shortcomings of the educational system in Mexico in particular. Also, we have deliberated upon the role that teachers and students have in an educational process. Moreover, we introduced the theoretical and practical proposal of the Brazilian pedagogue Paulo Freire in which much of our educational concept and practice is based.

To organize ourselves, we divided our job into four areas:

a) Resources, responsible for the organization of fundraising activities and resource management.

b) Community, whose job is to plan projects or community workshops.

c) Classes, is dedicated to train how to teach, as well as teaching strategies.

d) Future, which has the task of presenting a work proposal for San Jose Corral Blanco in 2017. This proposal could involve ¡Alfabetiza! in connection with other projects.

 

As you can see, we began the year with new volunteers, new ideas and new proposals; this excites us and generates great expectations. In addition, we are eager to return to San Jose Corral Blanco, where we have created emotional ties with the people, bonds that last more than one summer.

Knowing the new volunteers
Knowing the new volunteers
We learn from each other
We learn from each other
All together we know everything
All together we know everything

Although the literacy campaign concluded its duties in August 2015, the work is not over. During the next months we have conducted what we call post campaign where we make an evaluation of our work in the community and the project's relevance in it. Through an assessment of the work in classes and in the community, in addition to feedback on our experience, we decided to return for a second year to the locality of San José Corral Blanco in the municipality of Chignahuapan, Puebla.

Meanwhile, in early October we had a meeting called Co- Incidimos (Co- Incide) with the organization Altépetl and others, also dedicated to volunteer work in educational matters. In this meeting we were able to share experiences on community work carried out by the campaigns, the training model that they have incorporated, and the monitoring and continuity processes in the localities where they work. This meeting was interesting because it was another look at our work in rural communities. It has been planned that this last meeting will not be the only approach of the projects to discuss their knowledge and strategies, but other moments will be set aside where the discussion and feedback on our work and achievements continue.

Finally, we have begun the planning process of the literacy campaign of 2016. So far, we have held a session of a planning workshop where the objectives were to identify the history of ¡Alfabetiza!, talk about our role within the project and discuss some central axes as community development and education. All this work was in order to propose new objectives for next season and keep on questioning the relevance of our project. Also, this space is important to recognize our abilities and weaknesses as a group and visualize tasks and obligations to each person entitled. We know that is a lot of commitment and hard work; however, we have a lot of hope and devotion for the following year. We look forward to improve our work.

Panel discussion at the meeting "Co-Incidimos"
Panel discussion at the meeting "Co-Incidimos"
Family together around literacy
Family together around literacy

¡Alfabetiza! 2015, the adult literacy campaign, concluded its first year of work in San José Corral Blanco, Puebla. During the project, we successfully worked with 103 adults while living in their community for 7 weeks.

To carry out the project, on January 24th , 2015 a group of teenage volunteers started working on what we call pre-campaign where, during 21 weeks, we participated in 3 different activities: 21 sessions of training, a community diagnostics process, and fundraising. Aside from the training sessions, we arranged several garage sales, a dinner party, a cultural event, we collected small contributions on the streets, and sold small grant vouchers. We also received donation of goods. (For more information, please see the previous report.)

During the campaign, the volunteers generally get ready for their classes in the morning to teach them in the afternoons. In the class preparation room we had a small library, and a large variety of materials. Perhaps the most outstanding of these are many cards with pictures, words and syllables, wich we reprinted this year, in order to teach our students how to read and write with the Generative Words method.

In addition to teaching 39 classes a day, we developed an embroidery workshop. People from San José found this to be not only a relaxing space, but also a place to gather, reflect and learn. The embroidery workshop itself, as well as the discussions held during it, were based on the interests and situations the community had told us about during class. There were two embroidery workshops held on two consecutive weekends, 14 members of the community attended besides the volunteers of our project.

Besides working with adults in San José, we took on the task of working with children as well as young men and women. To achieve this we created two separate workshops, one child oriented and one youth oriented. The youth workshop led to the creation of the youth organization CSP (Community Support Projects, or PAC in Spanish), which seeks to create recreational spaces in San José. The members of CSP continue working; and they currently intend to build a basketball court. On the other hand, the children workshop held many different activities. Its objective was to gather knowledge that the children have of their community and of themselves.

Coexistence and cohabitation are a fundamental part of this project; therefore, this summer we decided to host a soccer game with the community, show a movie in public, and last but not least, go on a short trip with our students to a beautiful spot on the outskirts of San José known as El Cazadero. Here our students and volunteers bonded and interacted in a way different from anything they had experienced in class.

Our volunteers have learned and experienced new things throughout their time in San José. For example, Ollin A. shared the following:

After several weeks of teaching writing, maths and basic anatomy, my students Doña Bertila and Yesenia taught me how to chop wood. They found it funny that while I cut a single tree they had already gone through five. Then they told me: “This is just like writing, isn’t it? You need practice to get it right.”

 

Now the project is in its final stage: the evaluation process. After coming home, the volunteers have worked together to review both the work we did before arriving at San José and the work done while we were there. We are constantly seeking constructive criticism as a group so we can grow as individuals, as a team, and as ¡Alfabetiza!

Statistics:

Volunteers: 24

Training Sessions: 17

Conferences Held: 3

Adult Participants: 103

Adults on Basic Literacy: 41

Groups of students: 39

Children Workshop Participants: 30

Youth Workshop Participants: 10

Dona Luisa is embroidering his name
Dona Luisa is embroidering his name
Playing with the kids
Playing with the kids
The group is ready to meet the goal
The group is ready to meet the goal

The preparations have finally come to an end; now it’s time to get some fieldwork done. For the past 21 weeks, beginning on January the 24th, our group of volunteers has taken part in many different activities to get everything ready for our campaign. We divide these activities into 3 main categories: training, community diagnostic, and fundraising. “In a couple of days we leave the city and I am very excited! It’s the first time I participate, and although the only preconceptions I have from this project are formed by my peers’ anecdotes, I don’t feel alienated from it. Some of them say they are dying with fright, but I’m not (I will probably feel that way the first time I stand in front of a group –but not yet)." Said Dafne, a 16 years old volunteer.

Training

For every volunteer to be able to teach how to read and write, and simultaneously manage a group, they received the following training:

  • Class Simulations.- Each volunteer prepared and delivered a class to his peers simulating situations they could confront in their real classes so as to prepare them for what is to come in the rural community.  Special emphasis was made on the practice of Paulo Freire’s Critical pedagogy, focused on literacy teaching.
  • Observatories.- Through the facilitation of debates regarding current news or relevant topics to the group, volunteers sharpened their investigation, critical thinking, class planning and objective-setting skills.
  • Readings.- To solidify the theoretical and philosophical background this project intends to create in its participants, volunteers read texts from different pedagogues (mostly by Paulo Freire) and discussed them in self-made group activities.
  • Conferences.- The group reinforced its training through lectures given by 6 experts on various topics related to community intervention.
  • Material creation.- The results of systematizing our work include a literacy volunteer manual, a reading compendium, a small periodicals library, didactic material made specifically for our purposes, and books for class preparation and development.
  • Knowledge cores.- Teams were formed to research different topics, such as health, history, mathematics, science, and others. These topics, being relevant to the community, are to be debated and reflected upon in every volunteer’s class, and with them we gather relevant aiding material for our work with the students.

Community diagnostic 

Shortly after last year’s campaign ended, we began searching for new possible communities where we could implement our project, “¡Alfabetiza!” 2015, in. Eventually we found three promising options where we believe our project could thrive. After thorough analysis and debate over where our project would be most useful and better received, we decided to work in San José Corral Blanco, a rural community in the municipality of Chignahuapan, Puebla.

As part of our preparation, our group of volunteers made two weekend trips to San José Corral Blanco; one in March and another in May. To get to know the people we will be working with we conversed with some of the locals (around 120 people) and with local and municipal authorities.

In the community, the most common reading/writing practice observed is the signing of documents related to several governmental programs that reach out to the community. Writing petition letters to the township, and receiving propaganda and publicity are among the most common uses of reading and writing in San José Corral Blanco. During our trips the people expressed interest in learning how to read and write for three main reasons: to support the work they do at their jobs, to help their children do school homework, and most frequently, to  read and write documents required to receive governmental support.

According to our statistical sample, in San José Corral Blanco, the majority of the population has either not concluded their primary education, or abandoned school while starting their secondary education. 43% of the interviewees declared not knowing how to read or write. Although their academic level is low, they possess an immense amount knowledge that we aim to expose, maximize, and learn from during our stay in San José Corral Blanco.

Fundraising

Evidently, our aim is to collect enough funds so that 30 volunteers can live and work during 7 weeks of summer in San José Corral Blanco. We held two garage sales, a Mexican themed dinner party, an art auction, an indoors cultural event, and several “scholarship” sales. We also arranged many monetary and in-kind donations. Regardless of the fact that we have received enough resources to start the campaign, the fundraising is still an ongoing process.

Part of the group during a lecture
Part of the group during a lecture
Experimenting in the creation of teaching material
Experimenting in the creation of teaching material
 

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Organization Information

Adeco Acciones para el Desarrollo Comunitario A.C.

Location: Mexico City, Distrito Federal - Mexico
Website: http:/​/​www.adeco.org.mx
Project Leader:
Daniel Adeco
Project Leader
Mexico, Distrito Federal Mexico

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