Jul 21, 2012

Happy Birthday Ella

Just returned home from delivering a birthday cake to Laguna Apoyo.  Outside my job description I know, but these things come up from time to time.

A student group from Derby High, UK, has been painting the school at Pablo Antonio Cuadra.  At the end of a week of hot hard work, they were spending today cooling off at the Laguna.  Today was Ella’s 17th birthday and as a surprise for her, her friends arranged a birthday cake which I offered to pick up and deliver for them.  A vividly colored work of art with ‘Felicidades Ella’ in bright pink.  (The local bakery may have thought it a little strange to be inscribing the cake with what literally translates as ‘congratulations she’.)

I had three bonuses from the trip.  That of helping a young lady, far from home, feel special on her birthday. (in later years she is going to forget the homesickness, and just love telling people she spent her 17th swimming in a volcanic crater lake in Nicaragua).

I had the joy of watching Nico swim for his ball in the Laguna – no effort at all as there are always local children wanting to do the throwing for him.  With his tail wagging as doggedly paddles back, ball in mouth, it is treat to see.

And while driving down to the lake, in a green archway formed by the trees, a guardabarranco  flitted across in front of me. (Guardabarrancos are Nicaragua’s brilliant national bird)  In the dappled sunlight it was like a cascade of glittering colored gems fluttering past. 

What a blessing to count the treasures of an ordinary day volunteering. 

Jul 2, 2012

''Be happy with the small achievements''

Volunteer Michael Schulmeyer about his work for la Esperanza Granada

How did you come to work at La Esperanza and what are you doing here?
We were planning our round the world trip and wanted to do some volunteering during the trip for 2 months. We searched on the internet for organizations in Central America and stumbled across the La Esperanza page. We liked the concept and reviews and established contact with Pauline ... and here we are!

What was your education like?
I am a computer scientist and I have a Master degree in Computer Science. I don't have any educational background and had never worked with little children before. I only taught a course at a University in Vietnam once before, which I enjoyed a lot. 

What has been your best experience working here?
     After 5-6 weeks there are finally some kids who really want to work and appreciate the help that is offered. Especially that one boy, that is usually always hyperactive and aggressive, now really starts being interested and it turns out that he's rather not challenged enough.

     What is the most challenging part of your life here?
     Definitely the school system. It's really hard to see how bad the school system is and that you can't do anything (or at least not much) about it. School is not taking place on regular basis, classes are big, breaks to sparse. The levels in the classes differ too much, some kids take more than 2 hours to copy 3 sentences from the board, others are done with all the work within 15 minutes and then get bored, therefore disturbing the class, fighting or whatever. I knew that it would be different than in Europe, but it's worse than I expected.

     What advice would you give to future volunteers?
     Don't give up! Maybe don't have too big/fancy expectations of what you can do or change here. Rather be happy with the small achievements. It's not the organization's fault, neither the kids'. And all the grievance just shows, that there's still a lot of work to do - little by little. And there are those few kids, that really appreciate your help and for whom you will make a difference!