March 2013—Read Aloud Day and Close of Service Conference
March 8 was Read Aloud Day and my Family Literacy group in the village of Bella Vista practiced reading aloud to their preschool children. Ten mothers and a father, only two of whom speak English, practiced using the little board books that volunteers sent us from the States to help develop their young children’s language by interacting with them using these little books. Most of the donated books are in English, but the parents are learning to use the pictures and their own imaginations to tell stories, elicit conversations from their youngsters, and develop their children’s oral language. This one activity has been shown to be the most important key to educational success.
Together we have learned about infant and child development, we have learned and shared little songs and finger plays, and we have made puppets to help tell stories to the children. In last year’s Family Literacy group there were both English- and Spanish-speakers, but this year all of the parents are monolingual Spanish-speakers, all from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. While they are interested in learning English, it has been difficult for them to progress as the village of Bella Vista is inhabited by Spanish-speakers, and they all work at the banana farms, with other Spanish-speaking people. Their children, however, are expected to learn to read and write in English. But one mother, Nalesca, confidently declared to our group that when she read books and told stories to her 5-year-old son in Spanish, she noticed that he progressed in his Infant I (Kindergarten) class in school. This wise mother intuited what educators have known for a long time: when a child has well-developed native language, he or she has a better chance at success in school, even if his or her mother tongue is not English.
Here are some photos of our little Family Literacy class:
This Peace Corps Belize adventure is shortly coming to a close. The date that I will fly out to the States is May 31. But before we leave, all of us PCVs will need to fill out “reams” of electronic “paperwork”, (Peace Corps is, after all, a government agency), and we will go through a battery of final medical exams and interviews. So to prepare us for all of this, the Peace Corps staff provides a Close of Service Conference for two and a half days. This is also our last time to be all together as a group. Of the 38 Peace Corps Trainees who arrived in March of 2011, there are 25 of us Peace Corps Volunteers left.
Our conference was held at Cahal Pech resort in San Ignacio. We enjoyed being together one last time, and we also enjoyed spending time with the entire Peace Corps staff. The most meaningful workshop for me was the one in which we divided into sectors and shared our activities from the past two years. Then we reconvened and shared with every other sector and wrote up “Our Legacy”. Here are some of the Education Sector's most proud accomplishments:
We trained teachers in:
· * Literacy
· *Classroom management
· * Assessment
· *Special Education
· * Health and Family Life
· *Cross-cultural Education
There are many occasions when we PCVs wonder if we’re actually doing “enough” or are “making a difference”, so sharing our activities with one another helped to remind us of why we joined Peace Corps in the first place.
COS Conference 2013
Peace Corps Belize
Volunteers and Staff
Our goofy pic
Receiving my certificate from Nina Hernandez, our Country Director
Now time for fun! We divided up into groups to complete a digital scavenger hunt. Our first task was to get a photo of everyone on the team up in the air.
Our team fitting into a really small place.
Our team performing the Gangnam Style dance with some random people we roped into doing it with us.
Our team stuffing as many marshmallows in our mouths as we could.
We Peace Corps Volunteers enjoy our work and our leisure time. We have two and a half months left of our service here in Belize, and I am grateful to have such wonderful friends to serve with. I know our friendship will continue long after we have all returned to our homes in the US.