Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rob's Update

Since Peter has talked a lot about the challenges we’ve experienced with the pump, I thought it might be nice to talk a bit about the other activities in which we’ve engaged at the school. As I learned last time, one of the most important and rewarding components of this partnership is the interaction we get to have with the students. The first form this took was through sports the first weekday we were there. Last time I was here, I taught the students a little bit about baseball, though it was a difficult game to teach in an hour. At the request of some of the teachers, I collected some equipment and came back with enough gloves to equip a team and so Peter and I tried again to teach the game. The kids loved to hit and laugh at their friends who missed the ball, but had some trouble understanding what an out is and where to run after they had hit the ball. It seems as though we need more time with them to truly teach the game. While this went on, Isabel and Evann taught jump rope to many of the girls. I had no idea until we got here that Isabel had participated in competitive jump rope, so this was something about which she was passionate, and the students enjoyed it immensely. They were good at skipping rope and even turning double dutch to rhymes about the Obama family and others. However, the biggest hit of the day was Ozzie teaching soprano saxophone. We had been welcomed with song and dance earlier in the day, and Ozzie then had introduced them to the horn. Now, he got to teach a large group of students who all wanted to play the new instrument. They were getting the hang of making a sound, and hopefully he and I can teach them more throughout the trip.

Since the first day, we have also gotten to teach other things to the children. The next afternoon, Evann and I taught some students about graphing calculators. They had never seen the devices before and were fascinated when they plotted figures from their textbooks and saw the same shapes crawl across the screen in their hands. It is amazing how quickly these students catch on and how appreciative they are of chances to learn something new. They have a true passion for learning and understand the importance of having an opportunity to go to school. While we did this, Isabel and Peter taught basic computer skills on the One-Laptop-Per-Child computers we brought. The kids loved these new toys but still have a lot to learn!

Since then, the highlights of our interactions have been a physics lesson given by Peter on optics and lenses, Ozzie’s daily saxophone lessons, and a few soccer and volleyball matches between us and the students. Peter was a big hit in physics and looks forward to giving more lessons in the future. We didn’t fare as well on the field as all of us realized that our talents in American football, baseball, jump rope, and other sports didn’t make us automatically skilled in the others--the students defeated us handily in each. But maybe in 6 weeks we’ll be better!

I have to say that the whole trip one of the things that has impressed me the most is how much the school has changed in the short year and a half since my last visit. It is much closer to being complete and self-sustaining than the last time I was here. The pump down at the river has provided enough water that the school has lush fields with ripening tomatoes, cabbages, and other fruits and vegetables. They are harvesting and selling these products regularly and beginning to have some cash flow to pay for the school expenses. The assembly hall is now almost complete (it was only walls when last I was here) and they hope that this will generate more revenue as well as provide a space for assemblies and graduations. At the rate the school has grown since I was here, I hope that it soon will be much closer to its goal of economic sustainability. The community really supports the project and has already given us a great deal of help on our project, so it would be nice to see it be a success. I am very hopeful that the HMC groups that travel here in the future will see the same amount of improvement that I have witnessed, and that soon the school will be self-sustaining.


  1. Please take pictures of how much has changed! I would be very interested to see them.

    Ozzie is teaching the saxophone? That sounds like so much fun. From what I remember of the students' love of music, they must be enjoying that immensely.

    When I was there, I taught them to play Frisbee. I wonder, do they still have those?

    I'm so glad to here how well things are going.


  2. I loved hearing about the 2-way cultural exchanges. I hope someone videotapes the double dutch Obama rhymes. And how cool to have brought a saxophone!
    Jan (Isabel's mom)

  3. Thanks for the update! Did you show the students the PRGM button on graphing calculators. Coding on calculators is easy to learn and teaches you many things (such as thinking outside the box)!