Kusi Wawa Kuna Preschool - PART 2
We're back with part 2 of Bruce's blog about his volunteer experience with CCS in Peru. Dive in with us to explore how we impact child education in this community!
In Part 1 of this post I gushed a bit about how this little humble preschool is a sanctuary and oasis by explaining where it is located in order to give you a brief glimpse into what they have worked through to make this beautiful dream a reality.
In this post I’ll talk about the experience of being able to serve this school, how the community has come together to support Kusi Wawa and how blessed I felt to be able to spend time with the kids and the teachers:
Of the large volunteering group I joined in Peru, only four of us got the opportunity to work in the preschool. Everybody had great assignments, but somehow my four colleagues Sarah, Kelly, Jim and I felt the luckiest of all. Here we are, joined by another volunteer Ashley who we worked with for the first week of our the assignment.
The preschool is in a very small but tidy building. A two-year old classroom and a small utility kitchen is on the first floor, the three-year classroom (my assignment) and the four/five-year old combo classroom are on the second floor, and on a rooftop enclosed deck there are two different play and activity areas.
The preschool teacher I supported is a dedicated and caring woman that controls her diverse band of three year old whirlwinds with tenderness and deft skill. Her commanding presence is respected by every child in the room, as well as her assistant teacher and my volunteer partner Sarah and me.
We volunteers will support the school’s current learning plan to work on teaching the “modes of transportation.” We help with activities where the kids write, draw and do show-and-tell presentations on the different types of vehicles traveling on Land, the Sea and in the Air.
Where some school communities complain bitterly and struggle with the fact they can’t upgrade their current laptops or computer tablets fast enough, this under-resourced school drives right through their limited resources to find positive solutions.
I am limited on the number of pictures I can post but we were happy to see the kids make such effective use of fun illustrative models of planes, boats and trains constructed with Styrofoam, colored paper and glue.
The student presentations were of course incredibly adorable, but they were also very instructive. It was great to be reminded of the depth of the capacity of 3-year olds, and that they do grasp pretty complex concepts.
Our volunteer days started with us getting desayuno (breakfast) ready for the kids. Parents or other members of the community chip in to make a “leche” beverage which somedays is a corn gruel or other warm or cool drink blended in 5 or 10 gallon bucket.
We poured the leche into appropriate-portioned cups for the 60 to 80 students attending that day. Somedays we got lucky and gallons of chocolate milk arrived and the kids were thrilled. Along with the drinks, people in the community donated day-old bread, butter, jelly and occasionally donuts. On some day we weren’t so lucky….. like when the donuts were covered with icing. The children loved them, until some of the kids realized that one student got a donut with green icing or more sprinkles, and then the universalness of human nature took over. For anyone that has spent time around children in any country, trust me when I say that phrases like “She got sprinkles and I didn’t!” translate as perfectly in 3-year old Peruvian Spanish as they do in any other language.
The kids eat several times a day, and each meal was an action packed event. We volunteers set up, served and cleaned up after the meals, and washed all the dishes in preparation for the next day. We were amazed that our teachers did all of this work themselves during the time there were no volunteers there to help. After meals the kids lined up to wash their hands. It was an assembly line process as sophisticated as anything Henry Ford had ever envisioned.
These young students also have memorized and sing a number of songs every day that teach them about all kinds of life skills, social behavior etiquette and about being grateful. When the charity coordinator found out I played guitar, they dug up an old ukulele and brought it in so I could play along during such Peruvian preschool classics as “The Good Morning Song” and others. “Lunchetta” is my new favorite tune, because it is catchy and it extols the virtue of eating a second or a third breakfast before noon. Seriously, playing music for the kids was fantastic. See the upcoming post about my Birthday gift for more on that experience.
One of my personal favorite times was working directly with the kids.
We helped the students complete word and shape matching games, and help the kids practice fine motor skills of writing and drawing. During this process we were teaching them English as they taught us Español. It was great to see their self confidence build as they did better and better at their assignments.
But one of the more fun things was playing with them during brief recesses. The teachers wanted the kids to burn off their extra energy before their next lesson, and they did just that. Here are some of our little dynamos taking down the volunteers.
Jim, Kelly, Sarah and I could not stop talking about the richness and beauty we see in this environment. Local parents that cannot afford to donate funds to the preschool make food, bring in supplies for the classes or do whatever they can to help the teachers.
One of the biggest lightbulb moments is that these kids in a different country, probably thousands of miles away from where you live, are much more like you and your kids than you may ever know. I could write a book about the big personalities in these little but growing people. And each one grew on me more than I can express. Thank you to Terri and A Fresh Chapter, to Cross Cultural Solutions, to the Kusi Wawa Kuna staff and parents and the universe for giving me the gift of this experience.
And to the preschool director Isabelle, the other teachers, and especially to the sweet angel of a preschool teacher Rosa and her dedicated teaching assistant Fiorella who I and my volunteer partner Sarah were lucky enough to assist, thank you for one of the best experiences ever.
Learn more about Bruce's experience in Peru on his blog at http://exploringwithbruce.com/.