Stonehill Service Corps is a year long post-graduate program through Stonehill College. Our service experience will be dedicated to serving alongside those at the Hogar del Niño, a daycare and school that serves over 1,600 children ages 0 to 18. We will be spending our time teaching english to the children in preschool. In addition to our commitment to the English program, we are each involved in different extracurricular activities that range from teaching yoga to an empowerment program.
Monday, September 15, 2014
Poco a Poco
We are now almost a month into our year in the Dominican Republic! This is so strange to think about, since it feels like we've been here for so much longer. We are all poco a poco, slowly but surely, settling into a rhythm here, especially at work.
At the school, we all teach English in the mornings. I teach Pre-Kinder (2-3 years old), Melissa teaches Kinder (3-4 years old), and Larissa teaches Pre-Primario (4-5 years old). Carola and Nina each have their own projects that they work on in the mornings. Carola is working on enacting a much needed discipline plan that will be used throughout the school, and Nina is developing a curriculum for the school's English program.
In a nutshell, our mornings consist of singing lots of songs; I personally have dredged up lots of nursery rhymes from the backs of my memory that I did not even know I remembered. We sing about the morning, about the weather, about the day, and simply try to ingrain English into all that we do to get our kids learning English in a fun way. For example, this past week our goal was to teach all our students the vocabulary words: teacher, boy, girl, the number one, and the color red. On Mondays, we plan out a slew of different activities that we think are fun and our kids will enjoy for the week.
For my three classes (each of us have three classes that we teach per grade, so for me there is Pre-Kinder A, B, and C) my children are all around 2 and 3 years old and are just learning how to sit in a chair and at a table for extended periods of time. So while it certainly is cute when I see one of my kids crawl onto the table, they should not be doing that, and I have to grab them and place them back into their chair. However, poco a poco I hope to infiltrate all of my students' minds with the English words and activities I teach them. So far, it truly is the best feeling when I hear my students singing along with me and when they say random snippets of songs to me even when we are not singing. On Friday, when I was working with one of the tables in a class a girl pointed to me and said in a sing-song voice "maestra, teacher!!" from one of the songs we sing. Needless to say I gave her lots of high fives and encouragement.
In the afternoons, we all have various projects throughout the school that we work on. Melissa works in the Zona Verde where she teaches yoga and about the importance of good health, nutrition, hygiene, etc. Larissa works in the Sala Infancia (Infant Room) which is a daycare for children from years 0 to 2 years old where she is developing an early stimulation program. I work in the Escuela de Sordos (the School of the Deaf) where I am helping the students there develop their reading and writing skills. Nina spends her time working with the older grades, middle and high school students, in a program directed toward educating students about life, development, respect, responsibility, etc. Finally, Carola is working closely with our supervisor Virginia Brown who is the director of the English program throughout the school, on a special education program aimed at helping students with both academic and behavioral difficulties.
Our bags are packed and we are ready to go!!!
Poco a poco I am learning Spanish and Dominican Sign Language, maybe not at the speed I want to be, but slowly but surely nevertheless. Whenever I get frustrated at myself for not knowing the two languages I need to know, I remind myself that I have only be here for about four weeks, and I have a whole year to learn it.
Outside of the school, life here in La Republica Dominicana runs on a time of its own. Even if we have a meeting at 10 a.m., this could mean 10 a.m. or it could mean 10:30 or 10:45 a.m. This is just one aspect of the Dominican culture that is very different from the one we are used to back home where one is supposed to arrive 10 minutes early to any meeting, and one is considered late if one arrives on time.
Another thing that I know all of the newbie girls (Melissa, Larissa, and I) and the veteran girls (Nina and Carola) still have a hard time with are the varying degrees of disrespect that we see all around and also in the stark dichotomy of very poor and very wealthy here on this island. It is difficult to see people who have so, so much live right next to other people who have so, incredibly little. Seeing this unjust unbalance always brings me back to the reasons I wanted to do service in the first place, to witnessing the same poverty and immense wealth I saw as a child in the Philippines and feeling helpless to changing it.
In addition, the idea of respect that we as Americans have and the notion of respect that some Dominicans have is also very different. For instance, catcalling exists in the U.S., but not to the extent that is present here. The five of us could just be walking out of the school to grab a snack during our break and the men here treat us like objects, not as humans. Being in this country has also brought out the feminist in me, since many men do not believe that women should be doing anything considered "strenuous" such as lifting a box. Excuse me, but I know I and the four other women here with me are extremely capable of lifting a box, thank you very much.
We love our new uniforms!
Now, here in the DR, I know it is impossible to single handedly (or 10 handedly since there is now five of us) to change the entire social system and culture, but what is possible is teaching our kids at school what respect truly is and to simply be good role models and sources of support and encouragement whenever they need it. We offer our love freely and indiscriminately; I could not even count the number of kisses I plant on my students each day. Seeing their joyous, innocent smiles and their unconditional yearning for love and attention replants my mission each day for being here and reminds me why I am here.
Lastly, I am so incredibly excited for this coming year due to the five other amazing people I am here with. Nina, Carola, Larissa, Melissa, and Angie are incredible women and we are all so similar in how hard we work and how much good we want to do here. It makes our jobs here so much more enjoyable and swifter with the number of hands and the laughter that comes along with everything that we do. I am very eager to how the rest of this year unfolds, and I hope to keep you all updated on what happens next in our adventures! Until then!