Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Little Reminders

We have been here about three months and have begun to understand more about  ourselves and the children we work with. At times, it is easy to get caught up in our work and lives here. But today, we were fortunate enough to be reminded why were here doing what we are doing. All three of  us have grown close to three children whose names are Miguel Angel, Luz Elena and Karen. Miguel Angel and Karen are siblings and Luz Elena is their cousin. All three have very big personalities, one more sassy than the next. Both Miguel Angel and Luz Elena are twelve years old and Karen is nine. We know a little bit about their home lives and, needless to say, it's not perfect. Regardless, they are three of the happiest children we know. During the hour before lunch, we spend time talking with them while we gather materials for our classes. They sit with us, tell us about their classes, their dreams and their lives. In just three months, these children have made an impact on us, as have all of the children at the Hogar, but today was a little different.
     The Hogar, which translates into "home", is way more than just a school. It is a place for the children who live in La Romana to go. It gives them the opportunity to get off the streets and eat, possibly, the only hot meal they will have that day. During the time before lunch, Luz Elena was telling us how some children from the town, who do not recieve meals during the day, come to the Hogar to eat lunch even if they do not attend the school. She continued to explain to us that the principal allows food to be given to children who are not students at the Hogar, however, if the principal is not present in the comedor (or cafeteria), the staff will not always feed these children. With wisdom way beyond her years, Luz Elena proclaimed how wrong she thought that was and did not agree with it. As she was telling us this, there was a passion in her eyes that is unique for a twelve year old. In that moment, we were reminded why we began this beautiful journey to begin with. It began with a passion to do something. Sometimes we can get caught up in our own frustrations, fears, stresses or things from home, that we can forget what it is to do service to begin with. Carola ended her morning classes with a difficult class which resulted in a lot of frustration. She told me that she just wanted to give up and stop teaching that group because of their behavior. After this particular class, we talked about how sometimes it´s the worst kids who need the most attention. In addition, when the teacher is not doing their job very well, it makes our thirty minutes a day with them even more important. In just a few words from a little girl, we knew that although we would have times of frustration, we can and will never give up because we are doing something we are passionate about. Luz Elena reminded us what it is to be passionate about something and not forget what we came here to do in the first place. I know that I am so grateful to each and everyone of my children and I continue working, even on the hardest of days, for them. This may not be the only time we need to be reminded of this, but I know that we can always count on our students to do so. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

First Blog Post YAY!!

We've been here for exactly one month and 11 days today and we've loved every single second of it. As of right now we feel like we've finally gotten into the swing of things at the Hogar del Nino, our new home, La Romana, and the Dominican Republic. It has been pretty interesting to say the least. Days of coming into the school and having the children scream at us "VISITA, VISITA!" (visitors) are long gone as now they realize we're here to stay and either call us by our names, or the younger children call us "Tio" o "Tia" which means Uncle or Aunt. The Hogar is an incredibly special place with many different parts, however we're not involved in all of them. There is the 'Sala Cuna' or 'Crib Room' which is essentially a day care for babies from as young as 2 months old to almost 2 years old and Nina and I spend some time there, but more just whenever we have a free few minutes and need some adorable baby time.
Next there is the 'Nivel Inicial' which translates into 'Initial Level'. This houses the children from ages 2-6. Here there are four different sections: Nidos (ages 2-3), Maternal (ages 3-4), Kinder (ages 4-5) and Pre-Premario (ages 5-6). Within each of these sections there are three different classes, all having anywhere between 25-45 children. Monday-Thursdays mornings from around 8am-10:30, the three of us teach English to the 'Nivel Inicial'. Nina teaches the children in Maternal, I teach the children in Kinder and Ramses the children in Pre-Premario. Our class times can range anywhere from 15 to 45 mins and are on a sort of rotating schedule. So far we've all been teaching the kids lots of songs, as well as some of the numbers, some shapes and a few vowels. I think the best part is when parents approach us to tell us that their children come home saying my English teacher Carola or Nina or Ramses, teaches me a lot in English and they proceed to sing a song or count the numbers to show their parents how much they know.
Next there is the Upper School which has grades 1-12. However, the Upper School isn't run how we think when we think traditional 8am-3pm.. Instead, there are two sections of each elementary school grade, one runs in the morning and one in the afternoon, and high school runs in the morning while middle school in the afternoon. Currently there is major construction happening with this school in order to make a larger building so that the school hours could be more like a traditional schools which would then allow for more after school activities.Nina and I both teach elementary school English, but only in the afternoons. I teach 1st and 3rd grade and Nina 2nd and 4th grade. It definitely wasn't easy at first. Neither Nina or I studied education, therefore all of this was very new to us. In addition to these obstacles, others come when working with children who come off the streets, or come from lower income families or come from a poorer city  like La Romana. However, what we've found is that these children just need some love, attention, a little discipline and just to be reminded that they are important, because at the end of the day we love every single one of them and they are really wonderful children.
Currently the equivalent to an after school program is called the "Zona Verde", the Green Zone and it has it's own very special building. The main idea of the Zona Verde is to keep the kids off the streets when they're not in school and focuses a lot on art and music as well has what would be equivalent to an U.S. study hall. Ramses spends a lot of time here, teaching two art classes a week in the afternoons. Nina and I are also spending some time here working with some of the kids on a special project we'll explain in a few months.
All in all as much as our days our long, and we wake up early, I can confidently say we wouldn't want it any other way. These children our inspiring and never ever cease to amaze us. We're the lucky ones for getting the opportunity to work with them.
Although this blog post makes it seem like our lives are completely encompassed by our work at the Hogar, I promise we're having fun too! More on our lives and our new home in posts to come.