Volunteering

In El Pedregal, a small town close to Machachi and the volcano Cotopaxi, the local children have been given the opportunity to learn a second language through the efforts of volunteerteachers.

Phil Moore is a qualified TEFL teacher but this year he has chosen to work voluntarily.

He explains that the concept of learning another language is quite alien to these children,as most of them will never leave Ecuador.

"It might inspire them or help them to get a good job and if just one of them learns some English that is good, although I probably won't see the result of that," hestates.

According to Phil, the pupils he teaches are 'lovely kids' and are very reserved. They are afraid to ask for things unless they are offered, he tells us. Also,something in the culture prevents them from saying 'I don't know'. "Maybe theyare embarrassed to or maybe it is lost in the language somewhere," he says.

Life as a teacher in this small Ecuadorian community is very different to working in acity or in a European school. The day is not strictly structured and thetimetable is not 'regimented'.

With the help of donations and volunteers, the Yanapuma Foundation, a fledging Quito-based organization, is taking an innovative, comprehensive approach to community development. The Foundation was brought into being by Andy Kirby, a native of Scotland, whose experience volunteering in other community development organizations in Ecuador convinced him that a new approach was needed.

The Yanapuma Foundation bases its work on a need to help indigenous communities thrive andpreserve their cultures amidst the pressures of globalization. They are currently accepting volunteers and donations to help with projects in the communities of Bua de los Tsachilla, Wachimak, and La Chimba; as well as others involving street kids in Quito. Among the unique aspects of Yanapuma is its Spanish school, which it uses to train its volunteers as well as cover its administrative costs. "The idea is that one hundred percent of donations go to fund community projects," says Kirby.

When I came to volunteer in Ecuador I had the typical idealistic vision of changing the world one child at a time. I saw myself breezing into a classroom full of needy children ready to hang onto my ever word. In reality the four months I have spent teaching English have been tougher, more demanding, yet more incredible than I ever could have imagined.

I work in Escuela Bergen, an extremely poor school in the south of Quito. To say that the school is struggling would be an understatement. I recently found out that without volunteers Bergen would have been forced to close down last year. As it stands the principle and his wife cannot afford to be paid. There are currently fifty children in the entire school, each paying $20 a month. This classes it as a private school although it is far from a Latin American Eton. Classrooms consist of corrugated iron ceilings, metal desks facing a white board and sparse decoration. One very memorable moment was entering a class to see the floor covered in dog faeces. What surprised me most was the children ignored the mess and the lesson continued. Not only does this emphasises classroom conditions but shows the mentality of the children.

Laura Esther Córdova Navia stares straight at me witheyes that burn with passion and a voice that tells me, 'we're serious'.

The Ecuadorian born woman, whom is one of ten children in her family, is director of the volunteer organisation New Horizons in a project that connects all parts of the country: the Costa, Sierra, Oriente and the Galapagos Islands. They aim to tackle problems of under educated children adifferent way

There is no doubting the desire to enable change in a country that desperately needs to break from the past and move into the modern age where children a taught until 16 and mothers don't bear children until their twenties.

As supposed to just putting money into schools and asking volunteers to teach the children, New Horizons educates parents too with them others receiving special attention.

'A woman can be seen by a man as a body or a vessel to carry their children and work the house,' says Navia. 'The trouble of course with that is a woman becomes completely dependent on the male in the house interms of comfort and security. I have spoken to many who have been mistreated by their husbands but who can't leave for they have no where to go.'

Steve Pugh,a 21 year old graduate from Liverpool, became a volunteer on a football schoolin Quito, where he trained children from the age of 4 to 16 the art offootball. Tom Nicolson talks to the 'red' from England.

Steve Pugh,a chunky built graduate from Liverpool, England, turns up to the interview inhis Liverpool shirt. Clearly a die hard red and immediately springs into lifeon his passion for football and his sides chances in the forthcoming ChampionsLeague final in Athens.

The 21 year-old has taken his passion and put it into the grassroots of Ecuadorian football, where he takes his own class of youngsters to teach them the basics.

The school where he volunteers is one of the best in the country, lacking only behind the professional teams of Ecuador. Professional coaches, an ex-pro and even a psychologist are all hired to run the school of 60 for children between the ages of 4 and 14.

'The psychologist talks to the children about the mental aspect of the game', says Pugh. 'One time, he talked about having a blank mind when taking a penalty,which was very professional I thought.'

Otavalo MarketThe alarm clock sounds. It's 6am, far too early for my love of sleeping. The chilled blue air pours through the crack in the window just above my bed, fueling my desire to remain in cozy hibernation just fifteen more minutes. Then, I think of my kiddies, and the dismal beds in which they are waking up, or the lack there of, and my feet touch the floor. Another morning expanding over the hills and mountains surrounding Otavalo, Ecuador. Another day of volunteer work at the little school in Urcusiki, the tiny mountain community forty minutes up questionable roads, just past the main gate of Cotacatchi's nature reserve.

It's been almost three months. Therefore, my morning routine unfolds without hesitation: Wake up, throw on the same, withering clothes I throw on every day, run up the stairs to grab a quick breakfast with Monica (my host-mum) and Galud (host-grandma), assemble my various folders and gadgets for the days activities, and set off to meet the transport.

Hurrying down the street, I can feel breakfast's cup of Nescafe beginning to charge my system, and with the sun just peaking over the summit of Imbabura, my mind awakens and I glance west to the mountains where my kiddies must also be up and moving, putting on the clothes that they wear each day, while their mothers wash and braid the long, thick, black hair that is so customary among both boys and girls.

Quito, EcuadorWhen I came to volunteer in Ecuador I had the typical idealistic vision of changing the world one child at a time. I saw myself breezing into a classroom full of needy children ready to hang onto my ever word. In reality the four months I have spent teaching English have been tougher, more demanding, yet more incredible than I ever could have imagined.

I work in Escuela Bergen, an extremely poor school in the south of Quito. To say that the school is struggling would be an understatement. I recently found out that without volunteers Bergen would have been forced to close down last year. As it stands the principle and his wife cannot afford to be paid. There are currently fifty children in the entire school, each paying $20 a month. This classes it as a private school although it is far from a Latin American Eton.

Classrooms consist of corrugated iron ceilings, metal desks facing a white board and sparse decoration. One very memorable moment was entering a class to see the floor covered in dog faces. What surprised me most was the children ignored the mess and the lesson continued. Not only does this emphasises classroom conditions but shows the mentality of the children. For many school fees come at a sacrifice to their family and really value education. This isn't to say they are all desperate to learn English, especially not from an eighteen year old with limited Spanish. However having gone to a mixed sex state school myself I'm no stranger to work avoidance techniques, or chaotic language lessons. I teach children aged between four and fourteen, so a typically day can include anything from basic vocabulary to complex verb tables. With children as young as five it can be hard to gain their attention, I often find myself singing the alphabet to distract them from running around the classroom!

CAITLIN BOURASSA, a 20 year-old from Maine, USA, decided to come to Otavalo, Ecuador to work with the local children. She encountered a lot more than she bargained for. Here she describes the final days of her rollercoaster ride in the northern town of a sometimes bizarre country.

'Today was my last day at Urcusiqui, the local indigenous school I have been working in over the past two months. The band-aid has been ripped off, although I think I'm about to feel the sting for a while.

I spent the whole day just breathing deep; breathing it all in the wood-smoke smell of the kids´ hair, the nip in the cold air when it's cloudy, the constant action and drama that unites everyone at that school, the song they all sing for the late arrivals, my last time serving rice and lentils to my babies, the affection they all give so unconditionally. It's all been amazing, tiring, joyous, frustrating... beyond anything I could have hoped for. Those kids are incredible and they'll stay with me forever.

My body is screaming for some tender love´n´care from the topsy-turvy emotional ride that I have endured, but I know I'll be back and what a day that'll be. I'll look forward to arriving back to this little home I've carved out for myself, with the people who have made this experience what it is. On the agenda still to do is an early trip to the animal market, breakfast with friends at Casa de Frutas where they do great coffee and breakfast for a couple of bucks, one last tour through the madness that is the Saturday Market, a trip to Ibarra to find water-proof ponchos for the kiddies, probably a nap, and then one last night out in Otavalo.

19 year old Ellie came from England to learn Spanish and teach in a local indigenous community. Follow her adventures in her monthly journal,  'Diary of Ellie Kilpatrick'.

Monday Week One

My teacher and I have had some very funny conversations when I say things wrong. For example the word for orange and spider are very similar and I said I was scared of oranges. He said that is very strange. So I said it's actually very common. So he said I was crazy. I later realised what I had said! I also told him my dad has black skin instead of hair and have only realised my mistake today after him thinking for 3 days that my dad is black! Also I said my mum thinks our dog is a baby. So he said that my mum should see a phychiatrist because a dog and a baby are very different!!! I'm sure the children will find my mistakes very amusing!!!
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