viernes, 25 de febrero de 2011

My Learning Experience At Los Patojos

To say my experience with los patojos changed my life would be an understatement.
Not only has this project in little jocotenango, sacatepequez reinforced my beliefs as an educator, but it has truly showed me how a whole community can flourish when ideas are put into actions.
In addition, what I have shared from these beautiful experiences with those close to me, has affected them as well. I have been able to show to my friends, family and students how truly amazing los patojos is.
Working with los meteoritos in a classroom setting gave me many gifts. It has opened my eyes to a whole other world. For a first time in my life I got to see and accept that no matter where I go I will be that “cool” and unique teacher. Whether I was reading to them, teaching them English, they were extremely opened to learn from me. Even sitting down and conversating or playing with them made me realize that children are universal. I realized that these children are unique. That they are like no other. That they represent what it means to be greatful, friendly, strong, accepting and so loving.
I had never seen that in other children before. Truthfully this was so beautiful and enlightening.
One would never imagined many of the life situations these children may come from. Because as soon as they walk into that project they are themselves, they are them in this beautiful world. It is because of spaces like LP that we can preserve the innocence and beauty each child brings to this world.
The colorful walls that surround these children paint a story in each of their lives. It is a happy story coloring smiles on their faces. Strengthening families and its ties. Educating. Allowing them to dream. Los Patojos is really what Guatemala really is and what is growing to be. Despite all the violence, there is a piece of hope. Big hope that refreshes me just to think about it. These wonderful people of jocotenango are the most inspiring dedicated educators I have met in my life thus far and truly made my experience an unforgettable one. I am so proud to say, I could be a part of this incredible team of people, truthfully is indescribable. I have no doubt that LP will continue to grow in the future. I look forward to seeing them all soon and working with them and accomplishing some awesome projects in the near future!
As cliché as it sounds, this trip back to my motherland [Guatemala] changed that idea that I once visioned. I wanted to go change lives accomplishing this through change, by changing [their] lives but I was in for the reality that they were the ones that would change mine.

“We must give all children the opportunity and tools to address their emotional well being not just their pain, but also their joy”—Evelin Johana Rubio
                                Literacy based organization educator
                               [Adult and youth community programs]
                                     Long Beach, CA the states

miércoles, 9 de febrero de 2011

Sasha (La Canche) 2008

Siendo joven, inocente, y aventurera, en mayo de 2008 decidí cambiar un año de la universidad convencional por la oportunidad de ser estudiante en la Universidad de La Vida en Los Patojos.

Casi tres años después y apenas a un año y pico de recibir ese papelito que me pone en la categoría arbitraria de "mujer educada", me estoy dando cuenta que las lecciones más importantes que me guían de día a día las aprendí de Los Patojos. Aprendí que los juegos de niños deben ser el único trabajo que tengan afuera de la escuela. Que es posible seguir sonriendo después de un día difícil. Que el niño es el mejor maestro porque te dice las cosas como son. Que un grupo de niños se puede convertir en un coro, acto, banda que roba el show con tan solo una audiencia. Que SIEMPRE cabe uno mas. Aprendí que una panza llena puede hacer milagros en la clase. Que para un niño soñar es dibujar su futuro. Que no hay nada es este mundo como un abrazo de un niño. Que la lucha para una vida digna ES LA LUCHA DE TODOS.

Se ha convertido en un ritual ir a los Patojos cada vez que regreso a mi querida Guatemala. Entre un mar de malas noticias, inseguridad, inequidad, falta de transparencia, ir a Los Patojos me recuerda que hay un futuro positivo para Guatemala, y que vale la pena seguir trabajando por ella y sus hijos. Me recuerda que nunca hay que perder el idealismo realista que tienen los niños y jóvenes que he visto crecer. Yo sé que los patojotes (los profes), los patojos (jóvenes) y los patojitos (ishtes) van a seguir siendo los mejores amigos y la principal inspiración en mi vida.

Sigo aprendiendo de esa experiencia, y solo espero que pude contribuir positivamente de alguna forma. Estoy contando los días hasta que pueda regresar y aportar lo mejor de mi.

Escribí un par de reflexiones en mi blog de ese año

(Nota: Cambié los nombres por razones de privacidad).

Estaré subiendo fotos mas adelante.

Siempre en la lucha,

Martha, Evan, Laura and Conor McManamy.

My 3 teens and I are volunteering for a month at Los Patojos, ( “The Kids”) near Antigua, Guatemala. We did quite a bit of research before choosing this NGO, and as you may know there are many NGOs in the Antigua area! Each is doing wonderful work in its own way, and the needs are tremendous so there is no problem with excess capacity of volunteers. What drew us to Los Patojos is evident if you look at the wonderful photos on the site: the place is full of joy! Among the many after-school enrichment programs for low-income children, Los Patojos seems to be unique in encouraging children to be their most creative and joyful selves.

The walls are covered with murals, children are encouraged to play ball and horse around during study breaks, and the sense of personal responsibility being taught reminds me of our Montessori education at home. The staff takes pains to treat the kids with the respect and love which many of them do not receive at home.

Juan Pablo, the founder, has a vision for social justice which pervades the center. They are teaching the kids to be the leaders of tomorrow, to have an understanding of the political realities of Guatemala and abroad, and to have a sense that they CAN make a difference in the world. So for example, the staff get together periodically to talk about political realities and how to create justice in Guatemala. This month, the teens are creating a newsletter, and they are planning a break dance event for the community – this in one of the most severely disadvantaged communities in the country, where people do not feel safe venturing out after dark.

I started by roaming around the center, getting to know the rhythms of the afternoon and exploring the age groups. From teaching jump rope, beading and painting with the youngest ones, to reading a simple book and working out English words with the older ones, to just sitting quietly with a child as he did his homework, helping him or her to concentrate better in that wildly festive atmosphere, I felt needed and helpful right away. Within a few minutes, children started to approach me with questions. I felt that little hand on my back, and a hesitant “Seño – puedes ayudarme?” “Teacher, can you help me?” At the end of the day, I was showered with hugs from many kids. Even more gratifying: when we walk through the neighborhood after the sessions, I meet many of the parents, who greet us with a smile of recognition. Several times, they have come up to me to thank me for being there for their children.

Yesterday, Juan Pablo told me that the oldest elementary-aged children, age 10 to 12, needed some volunteer help. So I went to the coordinator of that group, Rafa, and told him I was available to take a group. Honestly I had no idea what would happen a few minutes later when 10 children assembled eagerly in their classroom, ready for what I had to offer. As it turned out, we had a wonderful conversation ranging from geography (Where is Kenya? What direction is the United States from here?) to how it feels to fall into a huge snowbank (a current topic with all the snow up north this winter). I found that the children knew the English-language Happy Birthday song but they did not know what the words meant. After we learned this we launched eagerly into the Spanish rejoinder, “Ya queremos pastel!” (“We want cake now!”) which they taught me. When I talked about my religion, we got into a conversation about who is that man with the black hat on the cereal box, and we even invented a little song that Quaker Oats could use as its advertising jingle! I look forward to an ongoing conversation with the group, helping them to discover their voices and learn more about the world and the role they can play to make it better.