What an amazing first month in El Paredón! Seth and I arrived in El Paredón the last week of February, ready for our 6-month tenure as Education and Development Managers at La Choza Chula. It’s always a bit nerve wracking when you arrive in a new place, having committed to staying for quite some time. No matter how certain you are after perusing Google Images and reading travellers’ blogs you know that when you finally show up, everything will be a bit different than you’ve imagined! Luckily for Seth and I, we were immediately struck by the beauty (and heat!) of El Paredon, were welcomed wholeheartedly by locals and ex-pats alike, and (after a few calm sea days) woke up to perfect waves peeling left and right all the way down the beach. We were hooked.
These first few weeks have been filled to the brim with getting to know El Paredón, orienting ourselves within La Choza Chula, and beginning to hack away at the myriad of tasks ahead of us within our respective roles. We’re so excited about the projects La Choza Chula is working on and working towards, and we’ve done our best to jump in head(s)-first and get cracking.
One of our main projects since we’ve arrived has been getting the library closer to open for programming (opening date 25 April!). We’ve worked with local carpenters and contractors to get shelves and storage cupboards built, the electricity installed, and the inside walls painted. Also, our friend Scott from Mystical Yoga Farm has done us the great favor of spray-painting a bright and beautiful mandala on one of the library’s outside walls. The mandala is a beacon of excitement and color, and one of the first things students see as they enter the school compound. Thank you Scott!
Since we’ve arrived, Seth and I have had the pleasure of working with two very talented volunteers, Penny and Kaylee. Penny is a veteran of the performing arts, including acro-balance, theater, and dance and on top of all that, a master at working with schoolchildren. During her three-week stay, she offered twice-weekly performing arts classes to each individual grade in the primary school. She was an immediate hit amongst both teachers and students (and of course us!), demonstrating how to incorporate movement and creativity into the learning environment. Based on La Choza Chula’s goal of increasing local literacy rates by encouraging a love of reading, Penny based her classes on classic children’s books including: The Giving Tree, Where the Wild Things Are, The Rainbow Fish and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. We at Choza Chula are so excited to see the kids’ enthusiasm for literature; it has served as ample motivation to get the library up and running as fast as possible!
Our second volunteer Kaylee is an enthusiastic and talented visual artist who specializes in working with recycled materials—what a perfect match for us! We kicked off her two-week stay with a street cleanup to collect materials for class. The students were so enthusiastic about the cleanup that we almost didn’t have enough bags for all the trash! Kaylee then worked with the secondary school students to create colorful mosaics on the seats of the library stools. Students cut out and pasted the trash in the shapes of volcanoes, waves, fruits, and sea creatures, then covered them with varnish to make them last. We thought this project would be a great way for students to start adding personality to their library.
After this project was finished we moved on to working solely with water bags. Here in El Paredón water is sold in bags rather than bottles, so there are hundreds of these bags lying around everywhere. Kaylee had the idea to make jump ropes by tying the bags into long ropes, and then braiding them together to make them thicker and stronger. At first I was skeptical how the older students would react to the project, but they absolutely loved it. We finished our jump ropes about 15 minutes before class was over, and then braided them all together to make a long two-person rope. The kids went nuts for the mega jump rope and we could barely kick them out at the end of class! What an awesome way to teach our students about recycling!
Stay tuned for more updates on how the library and our English and arts classes are getting on, and checkout our Facebook Page (La Choza Chula) for more great photos! If you’d like to support La Choza Chula please consider…