My name is Peter, I’m 22 years old, and I come from Bulgaria. I am working for La Choza Chula as Education Intern for three months between April and July. My main role will be teaching English at the primary school in El Paredón, but I will also be taking part in organising other educational activities to help improve the literacy rate of the community as a whole. I am currently on my Year Abroad from Cambridge University, where I read Spanish and Italian. I spent the first half of the year studying in Siena, Italy, and for the second half I will be in Central America volunteering for La Choza Chula and then traveling for the remainder of my stay.
While I was still in Siena, I was thinking hard about what it was that I wanted to do in Central America for four or five months. The fact that I would be there meant I would be have the opportunity to speak plenty of Spanish (a big part of the Year Abroad is about reaching a high level of fluency in the languages that you’re studying), but I was really keen on finding a project which would enable me to experience a culture first-hand and which could give my stay a purpose and a structure. I was equally determined to resist being lured by any volunteer abroad programmes designed specially for foreign students – whilst this might have given me more peace of mind, I was not willing to pay a fortune for the “privilege” of volunteering as is the case with some organisations.
I happened to stumble upon La Choza Chula after long hours of searching across different platforms on the Internet. I saw their ad for the Education Intern position, and I sent in my application soon after. One interview, two lesson plans, many emails back and forth and five months later, I am in El Paredón working with the team at La Choza Chula!
Prior to my arrival, I set up a fundraising campaign to raise money for a new bike which the local librarian, Gaby, will use to visit further-out parts of the village to encourage more members of the community to use the library’s growing resources. I am pleased to say that we have already reached our target of £150 to cover the cost of the bike, and it will be up and running in the next couple of weeks!
I arrived in El Paredón 10 days ago, and I am settling in well. The first few days in a new environment are always tough, no matter how seasoned a traveller you are: there’s always a period in which your expectations of what a place should be have to catch up with the reality of what it actually is. For some it takes longer than for others, but I’m lucky to be working with a competent group of individuals who are understanding of this, and so the transition from life in a busy capital (Sofia, Bulgaria) to that of a rural coastal community (El Paredón) has been remarkably smooth.
In the last week or so that I’ve been here, I’ve had a chance to meet with members of the community, I’ve started teaching English classes to the primary school kids, and in the meantime I’ve had my first surf lesson and been to see the traveling circus. For a town with a population of only 1,500 there is a lot going on – much more so than I ever imagined – and it seems each person, whether they live here or are just passing through, has a fascinating life story to tell and a wealth of experience to impart to those who are willing to listen and eager to learn.
I have a feeling that the next three months will be an important and exciting time for me, both in terms of gaining experience as an ESL teacher and also more broadly speaking. I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of this project, and I hope to be able to make a worthwhile contribution.