On the Ground teaching!

Posted July 21, 2013 @ 2:09pm | by Comunidad

On the Ground teaching!

July 21, 2013 by Pam Hoff

There is a rico-suave young man, Gorge, from Potawassi, who needs a new digital camera. His broke and he tried to trade for mine or any of my companions. We admired his tenacity and award winning smile, so I follow through on his request for help: does anyone have a digital camera they're not using?

Before we left for teaching, we had a meeting one night with present and hopeful scholarship students. Pablo is a journalism student until 2017 (Paccha), and Edwin a mechanic student until 2014 (Naupas). The other two current students Julian (Paccha) and Pasqual were both unavailable. I believe they both finish as the end of this year. There were three potential candidates, who each had filled out an application and were quite anxious, as school has started for them and we did not have our system ready for them. Now we do, sorry for the delay!

We had Deyse, Paulina, and Joel use my Skype account to interview with Melanie and Wilber back at her house. It was a magical experience for them. Deyese from Chokipampa is studying Agri something or other. Paulina is an orphan girl from Chokipampa studying accounting. Her parents were killed in Shining Path violence. Joel is a painfully shy kid from Paccha studying mechanics. All three interviewed well and were accepted. All of them wrote down their email addresses and were instructed to set up a Skype account in the future, also the two current students. We should have done it on the spot, because 3 of the 5 emails bounced the next morning. Dangnabbit! Victor will try and sort it out. There were also 7 applicants that didn't show. Fundacion Comunidad will start August 1st, 2013 with three new scholarships: Monteras Anccasi Joel (Paccha), Paulina Yarasco Alvarado, and Deyse Valleso Melgar to the tune of 120 soles each. They must check in with Victor and sort out their email/skype issues.

The next night the four teachers of inicial came for a dinner and meeting. All professed great happiness about their jobs, but Nanci was having some issues. It was difficult to pin down exactly what the problem was, something about some parents being unhappy with her. Maybe it was only one parent, and maybe she was a little bit crazy anyway. I assured her that we knew her for 6 years now and thought she did a super fine job - don't worry about one parent or a gossiper in Hatumpampa. She was worried enough to think she might have to leave and requested a meeting with Fundacion Comunidad and the parents. Okay, Tuesday night. Each teacher got to speak about the difficulties of leaving their homes on Monday morning and traveling so far away and living in primitive conditions until Friday night. The Fundacion had purchased a nice card and wrote a thoughtful thank you for your hard work message inside, along with a 20 sole bonus. Not much for such sacrifice, but at least an acknowledgement.

Monday morning at the crack of dark we headed out for Chokipampa to teach school. It was not quite so dramatic as our teachers do it, however. They take a combi (little bus), which leaves at 3:00 in the morning. We left at 5:30 in our private van with our good friend Victor driving, much more humane. We made it just in time to unload our ton of stuff, eat a little breakfast, and begin lessons with our 100 students in the village.

The interesting thing about Chokipampa is that 85% of the students do not live there. They come from far and wide to attend school there. We have several kids from Juancavelica, a neighboring state. This presents some problems when we want to involve parents in shopping for food, or participating in decision making - they aren't available.

The pre-school teacher, Pia, is professional and well loved by the students. She brings her adorable three year old with her each week. He is a little pistol named Jareth. Last year she kept him home with her mother, but they were in a combi accident, and her mother lost an arm and suffered other traumas. We slept upstairs of her classroom, after they brought in 3 beds for us. It was freezing cold and the bathroom was down this treacherous cement staircase with no hand rail and a bump before the first step to give you the sensation of making a mistake from the getgo as you began your descent in the dark rainy, cold of night.

The director wore a formal suit of clothes and seemed all about the business of being a principal. We later found his warm and fuzzy side. The kids lined up for their flag ceremony and my job was to raise the flag. Please don't let it hit the ground!!! It didn't. My geography class was a pre-packaged world geography curriculum. It had them using an Atlas and finding correct answers. In the 2 days at Chokipampa I saw each of the 100 students, and they were well mannered, dedicated students. The director was always lurking, in case I needed marker or something. I had only 30 atlases, but the class sizes were just under that for each of the 5 grades. We only did a few of the 50 page, double-sided packet. There was much groaning about me needing to come back. No? At least send the atlases. Okay, I need all 30 in Paccha, but I will send 15 back afterwards.

Anne White taught English to all the kids and reported similar experiences. She teaches Spanish at Hudson High School normally. She had put much work into her lessons and had a big bag full of props to make her class fun and worthwhile for the kids. Kiira Wilcox bounced between our two rooms as needed, but her focus was placing the several hundred library books in our villages. The lion's share of this load went to Chokipampa. We met with the directors of primary and secondary - and they understood our system of tracking the books.

The primary school has been largely ignored by the government. Perhaps since most children attending Chokipampa are NOT from Chokipampa (40 of 55), the politicians feel they can yank them around. They have not received food money from the government to feed the hungry children sometimes walking for hours to get there. For this reason, Fundacion Comunidad will send money to primary school to provide food for 55 students. This begins August 12. The community was very grateful. Also, they have a clean, spacious area for the new stove. Fundacion Comunidad will buy a stove, dishes for 100, pots, 2 tanks of gas, all the necessaries for Chokipampa secondary effective August 12, 2013.

2 questions to consider for the board:

1.) Can we buy 2 more of those nice retablos for Chokipampa (they have no community money)?

2.) The director wants a desk - as he has only a table.

3.) They only received about 30 books for secondary, with the bulk of the 5 boxes going to preschool and primary. Can we perhaps raise more funds for a literary push at the secondary level?

A paragraph about the life in Chokipampa: Many parents speak only Quechua. We needed double interpreters. The mamas meet at night and sweep the inicial campus ground for garbage, which they collect in their mantas for burning. They do this once a week. We asked the director of secondary to have his students do they same to their campus, especially since they are visiting students. Have some pride! The next day, they swept their campus clean. We watched a horse being "trained". Broken is a more apt term. The boy holding the rope to the horse had his friends whip a backpack at the horse, which couldn't get away. I stormed out and grabbed the backpack and told them to stop harming the horse. They mostly ignored me and proceeded to whip a big boulder at the horse's flank. That is probably the most difficult thing for this gringa in rural Peru. The teachers and director helped Pia cook for us at night. The director and profesor Walter actually went fishing at 3:00 a.m. our last morning and caught fresh trout for Pia to fry for our breakfast. This village was so hospitable, so generous, so loving! I can't wait to come back. They were well-organized and grateful for our presence.

Hatumpampa: The village couldn't even imagine what sort of problems they were alleged to be having with Nanci. They love her! She treated us to a big show of the knowledge and talents of her preschool kids. She was once gone for 2 days, but all parents knew about it in advance and coped well. Her kids presented a verse, knew their vowels and numbers, could count by 2's, had basic phonemic awareness, had excellent school behaviors. What could the problem be? She had four 3-year olds, four 4 year olds, and six five-year olds. The parents fed us quite well and reported nothing but love and respect for Nanci. Whatever telenovela drama had occurred prior to our arrival, it was well resolved when we left. They want Nanci back next year.

Paccha: First of all, we arrived to a community center that appeared to fall from space into the most prime location in town. The view was stunning. The building had a large meeting space (locked), an office (locked), and a modern kitchen (locked). It had a double bunk bed room for women, and another for men. Each dormitorio had a 3 seater, 1 shower bathroom. It was clean and ready for us. What a marvel. The thing I found out was that the building was NOT a hotel. The community had to get permission from the government to house us there and to get their hands on the keys. We dropped our bags and headed for the secondary school.

The school is in obvious decay. The back wall to one building was kaput. The books? I have no idea where they were even. I think we might just have to let them go. Hopefully somebody is reading them! They did not present us with a schedule, but rather just sent us into a classroom. Anne took 2nd and 3rd grade high school, while I did 1st grade. Her kids were really naughty! There were not enough desks, and they received no prep from the director. Kiira went into co-discipline mode, instead of trying to locate the books for inventory. I had 35 kids in 1st grade with now only 29 atlases, 1 of which I needed for an example. There aren't enough desks. The white boards we bought are full of sticky stuff and have to be moved from location to location. The teachers go home, even though it's only Wednesday, or sit in the grass and have themselves a break from their 20 hour work week. It was a little frustrating.

We had lugged a projector to the village for a cultural exchange via laptop, but no parents or community members were around after school. I mentioned it upon arrival to our good friend Julian, the mayor of Paccha, but I never saw him again. There is a municipal building going in next to the inicial center, which itself will become a home for old folks to get meals and other services. The government will take over the payment of inicial, along with the other schools beginning March, 2014. The secondary was not using our expensive stove we bought them, because they could not "afford the gas". They were using wood on the floor of the kitchen. It was smoky and terrible for Anne, who suffers from asthma. The secondary communications teacher requested Fundacion Comunidad to purchase to tanks of gas a month for them. This would be 140 soles, in addition to our food money for the 85 students. Please let us consider this for the board meeting.

After a hard first day, we enjoyed a meal with Gloria, our inicial teacher in her building. We had her fetch the teachers still around from secondary, and the director. At first she came back and said he was not able to meet with us, he was resting. I got up on the little chair and did an imitation of him, looking like an ape pounding his chest), and the ladies were laughing so hard. Then he appeared with his teachers. I'm pretty sure he didn't see me. He apologized for not doing his job in preparing the kids for our arrival. He apologized for cramming 40 kids in with Anne and maybe 20 desks, without making sure we had what we needed or assisting us in any way. We had brought in about 4000 photocopies and state-of-the-art lesson plans that would not be any good without some Paccha backup. Well, we would see the next day.

We had a good sleep in the new building with stunning view. We found the kids all standing at attention getting a talking to from the director. I started out with the "naughty" kids and they were great after their talk. Although, it's disconcerting the crappy white board, lack of desks, lack of anything in their classrooms. I finished with the oldest kids and had a good experience with them. Nevertheless, I decided to send ALL the 29 Atlases back to Chokipampa, where they will finish their 50 page (double sided so 100 page) packets with the use of the atlases as they had requested.

Gloria treated us to a fabulous lunch and a presentation of her pre-schoolers. Gloria is our most qualified teacher, it is clear. All four are good, but she is incredibly professional and talented. I would love to keep her next year, but where? As we obtain more inicial centers, they are further and further away. This is something for the board to consider and discuss.

Overall, Paccha will need to figure out how to advocate their needs to their own government. The government neglects education shamefully so. I think the parents have no idea what a good education looks like, so are apathetic to this situation. Oh, on an upside - Gregorio from Paccha had stopped to visit us in Chokipampa on Monday. Now he was around on Wednesday to let everyone know how grateful he was to Fundacion Comunidad. Both his daughter Raida (nursing) and son Emerson (dental) were scholarship recipients and were doing well. His teeth were the nicest in the district, I couldn't help but notice.

We left Paccha with mixed feelings and made our way through Vinchos, were we once again picked up tiny hitchhikers and rode them 40 minutes up, up, up, around, around, around the mountains to their home. Can you even imagine a 7 year old walking 2 ½ hours up a mountain to return from school?

Back in Ayacucho we were met by Zenobia Huaman Huamani at Santa Rosa Hotel. She was accompanied by her brother and care giver. She too studies accounting with Paulina, her best friend. She is an orphan, and her brother struggles to help her. She pretty much gave the same heart rendering interview as Paulina. Plus, we set her up with a Skype account on site (Melanie, add her). I took it upon my self to accept her for 120 soles a month commencing August 1, 2013 for the two years of study. There were many tears shed and mixed up together. Were they mine, her brother's, hers?

I would like to thank the board of Fundacion Comunidad for this great opportunity to travel to the villages and really try to get inside the issues, challenges, successes and future opportunities to help these wonderful, deserving children and their families. I also want to thank Anne White and Kiira Wilcox for their unending help and willingness to put themselves out into the unknown. Thanks to John Kremer for his help in getting them both connected to our projects. Ask Kiira about a wonderful side project in helping an evangelical church with an unbelievably giving and helpful mission objective in Ayacucho.


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