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.
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.
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.
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
Experimenting in the creation of teaching material