Last week at Otavalo!

For my last week teaching in the schools, I planned an Internet activity for the children. The schools are outside of Otavalo and don´t have Internet (let alone phone lines), so we took the three year 7 groups to Otavalo in three mornings. It was the first time most of them had seen or used the Internet. I was pretty nervous being in charge of the them whilst in Otavalo, luckily it´s a relaxed town so it wasn´t too difficult to control the excitable kids! I wrote an Internet detective activity, where the children had to find the answers to the questions by searching on the Internet. When I wrote it I thought it would be too hard for them, and was surprised when all of them managed to complete it! It was a good three days!

Tuesday was my last day at the Pijal Alto school! 😦 They planned a little reunion for me, where all the kids lined up, the director and I said a few words, and then I was mobbed by hundreds of hugs! With a giant watermelon weighing me down, I made my last and emotional walk away from the school. The time has gone so quickly, and I´ll miss teaching at Pijal Alto!

On Thursday, after the last Internet lesson, Blanca and I said goodbye to the kids from Desaguadero. I had only been teaching the years 6 and 7 children, but all the children said goodbye and gave us both presents, a friendship bracelet and a scarf. They even waited for us to have lunch as they had prepared a special meal for us! Unexpected and really touching!

On Friday we went to the Camendo school where both of us had been teaching. Unfortunately they had arranged a leaving event for us on Thursday, but we were in Desaguadero! So some of the teachers weren´t there on Friday, but the rest got the children to line up, and each child gave a hug goodbye. Some children were upset that we were leaving, even those that had given us the most trouble! We were both a little tearful by the end!

Teaching, teaching, teaching
With only two weeks teaching left, I thought I would update this page. Basically I have been teaching and nothing really more to say! The children are now pretty good at drawing on the computer, even managing to use the tools in Photoshop to create gradients, textures and apply filters to photos taken of them. Here are some of the drawings they have done:

The last couple of weeks I havebeen teaching them how to use Word, to create an article about themselves. First I created one about myself and one about Goku, a character from dragon ball Z! The children then had to write about their likes and dislikes, a discriptionabout themselves and their families etc. I thought the kids would relish this activity as there weren´t any rules on what they had to write, as in other clases they are usually told to copy into their notebooks what the teacher has written on the board! At first the kids copied what I wrote, and it´s been a struggle to get them to write anything about themselves. I tend to spend most of my time encouraging the children and convincing them that they can actually do what I ask to do, even though it is something new and different. They usually end up completing the activity and doing it really well!

Next week we are planning on taking the year 7 to Otavalo for their first experience of the web! There´s going to be 24 kids, and I´m pretty nervous about it!

First Few weeks in Otavalo
We are now teaching in schools in the area around Otavalo, a mostly indigenous area north of Ecuador. We are volunteering with an organisation called Ciela Azul, and so far we have been really impressed with them. The first week we were introduced to the schools we´d be working with and to the other volunteers, who are practically all from Germany and are here for the whole school year! I´m teaching computing in two schools called Pijal Alto and Camoendo, and we have to wake up at 6 in order to get the bus on time! It´s a bit of a shock to the system as we haven´t had to regularly get up that early since we left for South America!

We both teach 4 days a week, and believe me that´s enough! I have around 6 classes a day, with kids ranging from 4-14, and most have never seen a computer before! The younger ones tried to use the computer by touching the monitor, and randomly hitting the keyboard, although amazingly they still manage to mess around with all the settings on the computer! It´s a very different experience to working in the markets in Quito. The communities around Otavalo are very basic but don´t suffer from the poverty seen in Quito and there isn´t a cycle of violence that is evident in the markets of Quito. Also I feel that here, even after 2 weeks, the children have learnt more already, as being in the classroom makes teaching the children that much easier, although they don´t always listen! What I will miss is not developing a personal relationship with the children that I did in the markets of Quito. Here, in Otavalo, I am a teacher of 12 different clases (over 200 kids in total), in the markets of Quito I was a gringo who provided a safe, fun and hopefully inspiring environment!

After 2 weeks, the children, having never used a computer before, have been able to draw a landscape using a free downloaded program from the Internet! This may not sound much, but I have been really surprised how quickly they have become confident using the mouse and grasped how to use the programs! So far they have enjoyed the lessons I´ve planned, or I think so as although my Spanish is getting better I don´t speak a word Quechua! In Camoendo the children are bilingual, speaking the native tongue, Quechua, and also Spanish, but they always speak Quechua between themselves. So far they´ve been pretty lenient on me and not giving me too much grief, and this is probably down to the fact that they find using the computers exciting and hope this lasts until I leave!  I´ll add a few drawings that the kids drew later on.

Dame Vueltas!

My Last Week at CENIT 😦

In my market, three of us were leaving the same week, so we decided it was time to stop teaching and play! On Tuesday, we used our imaginations to draw all the things we would take with us to the stars. The following day we made alien masks that I designed the night before. Also this week we bought a lot of sweets and toys as presents (hoping we had bought enough for all of them) and filled a piñata full! The piñata was a very cute donkey, and seemed a shame to smash him up with bamboo stick!

On the last day, when we went to collect the kids from the markets, I tried (very unsuccessfully) to hide the piñata! They were so excited that I had to be locked inside the classroom whilst I prepared it, they would have torn the poor donkey to shreds! All the children climbed up the bars on the windows looking in as I tied it up, I had to make threats that I would take it down if they didn´t wash their hands and brush their teeth first! After some games, and a lot of Dame Vueltas, we went inside the classroom, the volunteers were very anxious as we had over 40 very excitable kids and one very hard bamboo stick that would be swung around.

It was great fun but also incredible how 40 children can turn into savage animals, all baying for the goodies inside the piñata. At one point it was like being in the middle of football riot, the children chanting the name of the blindfolded child, who swings wildly with the bamboo stick at the piñata, whilst the volunteers try to keep the others back so they don´t get hit! The mad diveto the floor as a few sweets fall from the piñata, and lots of tears as they can´t get all the presents they want! It got a little emotional at the end of the day as we said goodbye to kids, trying to tell them that we wouldn´t be returning, saying that we were “going back home to our mummies” to the little children so that they would understand! We gave a photo to each child and took them back to their stalls for the last time, one niña called Erica told me “No te vayas, eres mi papi!” “don´t go, you re my dad!”….

I miss the kids, it was an amazing experience, the children were really great especially given the circumstances in which they live, and I hope I made a little difference in their lives!

Crafts Week

Last week we decided to plan activities that encouraged the children to use their imagination, creativity and practice hand eye coordination. For most of my time in the markets, the children had been doing a lot of colouring in. Although they really loved colouring in, they weren´t confident with drawing and most always said that they couldn´t do it! So we designed giant posters where they drew different modes of transport using examples I had previously drawn. After a little encouragement they soon started to enjoy drawing and surprised themselves when they could actually do it … lots of big smiles!!

Also this week we made boats and floated them in a large tub of water, and made paper airplanes after decorating them. It was really good to see some of the children make plasticine animals for the sea in our giant tub, without any prompting or assistance from us!

A Week on Body Parts!

Surprisingly the children were very well aware of the body parts. Even the location of the heart, lungs and stomach! They told the us the correct location when we didn´t put a body part in exactly the right place! So maybe we were the ones getting the lesson! Looking around the market you soon realise that they probably know all the body parts of animals, as you can buy roasted pig head, barbecue chicken legs and a lot more else bubbling away in stews!

For the lesson I created a full sized paper doll of a human body, and two smaller ones, where I cut out each individual body part to be fitted together.

After demonstrating the large body we then split the children into two teams. We played ´Simon says´, and the quickest to complete the paper doll was the winner! Also this week we decided to stop playing ´pato pato ganzo´ and instead try to use up some of their endless energy in the morning by exercising and playing running games. But most of the volunteers are not used to the altitude so I think we came out worse!

Paaarty Week!

Two long term volunteers, Stephand Michelle, celebrated their last week in the markets with the children. The objective that week was to have fun, so we made cakes, painted our faces, made clown noses, danced, play party games and generally did little work! The kids really enjoyed it, as you may have guessed!

Music Week!

Last week was such a good week, everyone enjoyed themselves making musical instruments and using them to make music from the jungle … and also we had Friday off for holiday!! We made maracas with the children on Monday with paper cups and lentils/pasta/rice for the shake, and in the evening I made a variety of instruments using everyday household things (a box and rubber bands transformed into a guitar, water bottles arranged to make a drum machine, more shakers using balloons and rice, and all sorts of sounds can be made from a simple piece of corrugated cardboard!). Before the lesson on Tuesday I wrote six jungle stories. When we had finally had silence after the excitement of the kids as we handed out the instruments, I took my place in front of everyone and explained that I was ´El Maestro (the conductor)´and the children were my orchestra. So I began enacting the stories of the jungle. One story was about an Elephant walking through the jungle with a monkey on his back. The elephant begins to run and the monkey falls of screaming. It then begins to rain, and soon it`s raining so hard that the jungle floods and all the animals run from the jungle. Soon not a sound can be heard in the jungle! The activity worked really well but was too short and we soon ran out of stories so had to make some up on the spot.

The next day we made a giant jungle poster! We wanted to get the children to draw/colour in pictures of animals and write the sounds that the animals would make and what instruments they would use to make those sounds, but we didn`t get time to write the sounds … we did however end up with a great poster.

It was a tiring but fun week and we were all very grateful for the Friday off!

My First Week!

I was nervous leading up to volunteering, I wasn`t quite sure what to expect from the experience, the environment where we would work and the attitude of people in the areas where we would be working. After a far too short briefing, unsure of exactly what I would be doing, on the first day I was happy to have two volunteers who already had over 2 months experience! Although they soon said that after this day they would be on holiday for a week and a half, leaving me, another new volunteer and a volunteer with some experience in charge of two markets!!

We went into our market to collect the kids, I tried to remember the faces and stalls of each child so that I could find them the next day. Most of the children were shy, tired, all were dirty and excited about coming with us to the area where we teach and play games with them. The plan for the day (as with most days) starts with singing songs whilst holding hands in a circle, then we play a quick game before starting the main activity of the day which was a colouring activity. All the kids are very demanding of your attention, shouting “Dame vueltas” where they want you to swing them around in a circle! When you do this for one child, every child runs to you demanding the same! Since I am the only male volunteer on the project the children usually ask me! The day ends with games, and the kids washing their hands and brushing their teeth which they absolutely love! The day is only 2 hours long, but you end up completely exhausted by the end of it, but absolutely loving it!!! It`s great when you take the kids back to their stalls, you usually get a hug from each and a big smile on their face as you say “hasta mañana!” (see you tomorrow)!

We had over 30 children every day, most are irregulars who turn up on their own, and they range from 3-8 years old, as it`s now school holiday we get a lot more older children! On Thursdays we read to them and Fridays take them to the local park near our markets. It can be really nerve-raking having to keep an eye on all of them, especially as the area in and around the market isn`t a good place to bring up or educate them and can be dangerous!

After spending 3 mornings with them, I am already bonding with the kids. They crave attention, and most are well behaved considering the circumstances of their upbringing, most experiencing some form of domestic violence and sometimes sexual abuse.

The hardest thing is remembering their names and trying to communicate to them with the little Spanish I can say, but thankfully this doesn`t seem to worry the kids!

You can find information about the volunteering organisation on their website: