Nov 30, 2015

Wendell Blubaum featured as Go Abroad Interviewee

One of our La Esperanza volunteers, Wendell Blubaum, 
was interviewed and featured by the organization´Go Abroad.´  
We are so glad he was honored for his hard work and are
happy to share the interview below.

Uno de los voluntarios de La Esperanza Granada, Wendell Blubaum, 
fue entrevistado y contó por la pagina web ´Go Abroad´. Estamos tan 
contentos, el fue honrado por su duro trabajo y estamos felices de 
compartir su entrevista. 


Wendell Blubaum - 2015 Program Participant
Why did you decide to apply for an international 
program? 
As a teacher of English as a second language, I have lived and worked abroad for 
my entire adult life. My first experience abroad was as a Peace Corps volunteer in 
Latin America. Now that I have retired I am happy to have the possibility to volunteer 
again, and to teach English to people who might not otherwise have the possibility to study.

Why did you choose La Esperanza Granada?

I knew that I wanted to volunteer in Latin America because of pleasant experiences there 
when I was a young man. After finding a site on the internet, which lists and explains free 
and low-cost volunteer opportunities in Latin America, I did quite a thorough study of the 
programs on offer. The program I chose, La Esperanza Granada in Nicaragua, suited me 
because it is dedicated to improving educational opportunities for impoverished children,
and it seemed well organized with respect to dealing with foreign volunteers.Volunteer teachers in Granada, Nicaragua with their students
Happy 5th Graders with volunteer teachers

What was your favorite part about Granada? 

Granada is a beautiful and reasonably safe city. There are lots of different choices of places to eat, 
all of which are reasonably priced. From Granada it is possible to travel cheaply and conveniently 
to lots of other interesting locations in Nicaragua and even Costa Rica.

What surprised you most about Nicaragua?

I was surprised to discover that Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere. 
I was also surprised by the amount of obesity in the country, which is probably attributable to the
amount of carbohydrates (corn tortillas, rice, sugar) in their diet.

What made volunteering with La Esperanza Granada unique? 

La Esperanza Granada provides educational opportunities for children of all ages. Volunteers can 
work as classroom assistants in kindergarten or first grade. They can also teach English in local 
schools to children in grades four through six. Besides providing human resources, the program 
also offers school uniforms and supplies for the children and the participating schools. With the 
help of sponsors, the program also has the funds necessary to provide scholarships to outstanding 
secondary and university students. In return for financial assistance, the sponsored university 
students help orient and assist foreign volunteers in their efforts.

How did local staff support you throughout your program? 

The staff have dealt with hundreds of volunteers over the years, and as a result they are very efficient
 in their operations. Local university students who are sponsored by the organization work in the office, 
helping the director handle the finances and logistics of the program. They also support volunteers with
 problems that arise and go to the schools with the volunteers, where they act as liaisons with the local 
school teachers and administrators. Volunteers are also provided subsidized housing, if they so wish.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently 

during your time in Granada?

I suppose that I would have traveled more in the country if I were going to do things differently. 
Although I was in Nicaragua for two months, I stayed in the city of Granada virtually the entire time.

Describe a day in the life of your program. 

As an English teacher, all my classes were in the afternoon. Each morning after having breakfast 
and shopping I would make lesson plans for the four classes that I would be teaching later that day. 
At noon I would meet the three other teachers in the English-teaching team and we would take the 
40-minute walk to the schools on the outskirts of town.

Once there we would teach grammar, sing songs, and play language games with the children. The 
younger children especially liked to sing simple songs in English; for example, we sang "Old McDonald
 Had a Farm," after teaching them the names of animals.

In the evening I would go to a local restaurant which I liked, and then go for a walk or go to the park 
to chat with locals, other volunteers, and tourists. One night a week there was a pub quiz at an Irish 
pub. Most of the volunteers participated in the quiz, as did many tourists, and the profits were donated
 to the organization. On Sundays I liked to go to the park to listen to concerts by local bands and watch
 the people dance.
Foreigners at a Granada pub quiz in Nicaragua
At the pub quiz, having fun while raising money

What was one of your favorite parts of your program? 

A childhood friend of mine came for a five-day visit, and one day we took a trip to a large nearby lagoon
 in a volcanic crater. It was quite an impressive sight, but I think we enjoyed the hustle and bustle of 
the bus trip as much as the actual site.

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like 

best about it? 

The organization has rooms for rent in four buildings in Granada. They rent these at very reasonable 
rates to volunteers who wish to stay there. Most of the younger volunteers stay in dormitory type rooms
 with around four beds per room. Older volunteers, such as myself, prefer to have a private room with 
en suite bathroom, and these are also available at a higher, but still reasonable, rate.

All the homes have a fully equipped kitchen and washing machine, so it is very convenient to live in 
these residences. I liked the privacy afforded by the private room and toilet, but the younger volunteers
 seemed to appreciate the camaraderie of the dormitory living.
House in NicaraguaMy "home" in Nicaragua (aka. volunteer housing)
What was the hardest part about teaching in Nicaragua?

The single hardest part about teaching in Nicaragua was the attitude of some of the older primary school students. Although we taught in grades four to six, and one would expect the students to be very young, there were some sixth grade students who were well into their teens.  These older students tended to be negative and unwilling participants. Perhaps they were frustrated by their lack of success in school or embarrassed by the fact that they were in class with much younger students.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before your program?

I didn't realize that it was culturally acceptable for men to wear shorts, so I packed inappropriately. 
The walks to school were quite long, and the heat in Central America can be punishing at times.

Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to 

Nicaragua?

Pack cotton shirts and shorts, but the shorts should not be too short or you will attract unwanted
 attention; this is particularly true for women. It's probably a good idea to take a flashlight as there
 are occasional power cuts. It's also a good idea to take insect repellent.

Now that you're home, how has teaching abroad impacted your

life? 

One very good effect of the experience has been an improvement in my Spanish. After majoring in 
Spanish in college, I had let my skills slip through lack of practice over the years, but my time in 
Nicaragua was useful in refreshing my knowledge. It has also motivated me to work on my Spanish
 through online courses in the months since I left Nicaragua.
Would you recommend La Esperanza Granada to other ESL 
teachers?

I would absolutely recommend La Esperanza Granada to other ESL teachers. It is a completely 
different teaching experience from what one might find elsewhere, and the students are generally 
very fun to work with.


Nov 20, 2015

Volunteer Spotlight! - Susanne Kennedy

Volunteer, Susanne Kennedy (pictured below at bottom right) joined La Esperanza Granada this past month from Australia.  She had previously traveled and volunteered in Guatemala before arriving to Nicaragua in mid October.  She describes some of her experiences below about her time as a primary school assistant in one of our La Esperanza schools.  We are so grateful for the time she and her fellow team members spent with the children –

Volunteers assisting the primary grades at Pablo Antonio Cuadra, 
Clockwise from top left – Rebeca, Felipe, Scarleth, Susanne, and Tiffany

Most Tuesdays and Thursdays a taxi pulls up in front Pablo Antonio Cuadra primary school with a box full of tablets and small laptops, which have been provided by La Esperanza, to rotate between the schools they support. Children line up eagerly at the door of the temporary 'computación' classroom when it is their turn. For most these sessions are their only opportunity to access information technology and advance their learning through interactive numeracy and literacy programs.

For the past month I have been assisting in the pre-school and first grade classes at Pablo Antonio Cuadra Primary School in Granada.  I am grateful for the opportunity to support the Nicaraguan public school system – which clearly lacks resources and high quality teaching training – through the La Esperanza program.  Working with a dedicated team of volunteers and the wonderful local children, who are open, resilient, big-hearted and hungry to learn, was a most memorable experience.

Engaged Students during computer class at Pablo Antonio Cuadra
Voluntaria, Susanne Kennedy, llego a La Esperanza Granada el mes pasado desde Australisa. Susanne, viajaba y era voluntaria en Guatemala antes de venir aquí en Nicaragua, este Octubre. Ella describe unas de sus experiencias abajo, sobre su tiempo como una maestra de primaria en una escuela la que se apoya por la organización.

Ayudante, Karina, spending time with 
one of the young students during a break time
Cada martes y jueves hay un taxi que viene a la escuela primaria, Pablo Antonio Cuadra, con una caja llena de tablets y laptops. Que dispone por La Esperanza y se alternan entre las escuelas. Los estudiantes hacen fila afuera de la sala de computación temporal esperando su turno. Por la mayoría, estas clases son la única oportunidad para tomar clases de informática y mejorar su aprendizaje por aritmética interactivo y programas de alfabetización.

El mes pasado, he estado ayudando en preescolar y primer grado. Estoy muy agradecido por la oportunidad a apoyar las escuelas públicas de Granada, las que falta los recursos  en general, también para ayudar a los maestros. Trabajando con un equipo de voluntarios muy dedicados y los estudiantes, los que son muy abiertos, maravillosos, resistentes, con gran corazones, tienen hambre de aprender, fue una experiencia formidable.