Volunteers help out in many different ways. Many assist in our classrooms, where they help individual students, make materials, lead group work and contribute ideas and techniques. Most importantly, they give the hugs, high-fives, love and attention that our students desperately need. They fill in those gaps that our teachers and staff often can’t reach, like sitting quietly beside a dispondite child during recess, letting them know that someone cares for them. Some come and share their talents and professions such as offering medical services, dance classes, or lending their handyman abilities.
Despite their many differences, all of these people have one thing in common, they come to help and they all impact the school in one way or another.
This summer we received over 60 volunteers, including four groups in just three short weeks! One of them was Nottingham Trent University (NTU) This was their 3rd visit and they dedicated their time to painting the patios, building two houses and repairing one roof, as well as assisting in the classrooms. Some of the volunteers ended up forming a really special bond with the mom from the first house build, she made pepian, a traditional dish for guatemalan people and they spent their last day making a giant handmade card for her to hang in the new room.
Another group from a US high school transported thirty computers to the school for our computer lab and spent the week teaching the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders how to make cardboard cars as an introduction to our upcoming science fair.
A small, dedicated group from Hobart and William Smith Colleges volunteered to spend a day cutting weeds with a machete for a future house build.
We also welcomed a professional development team from Southern Methodist University who worked closely with our teachers and staff in order to improve the quality of education at the School of Hope.
We had a diverse group of individual volunteers as well, some of them were full time teachers in their home countries while others were Guatemalans living abroad who volunteered while visiting their families. One volunteer worked closely with the music teacher in order to add more dance to the curriculum, he even had the middle school students dancing in the patios where everyone can see!
Sara Miller, our visitors and volunteers coordinator, has several goals for the program for the rest of the school year. One them is to build a volunteer lead after school program, at the moment we have a karate and theatre club, but ideally we would like to be able to run an after school project everyday of the week. Her goal is to find more local volunteers to run the after school programs as they provide great examples for the students, can volunteer for longer time periods, and feel comfortable in the language and culture. It also helps the School of Hope become a part of the greater community and promotes wider understanding of the project.
In the month of August we have had more local volunteers than international ones, which is very exciting! We are also searching for specialized volunteers who can work as academic tutors and literacy specialist in hopes of using volunteers to strengthen those areas. Another main goal is to facilitate long lasting connections between volunteers and the School of Hope through a volunteer newsletter, facebook group with weekly updates, an Ambassador program where volunteers are provided with presentation, fundraising, and networking tools to spread our mission through their home countries and schools.
Although they might not always realise it, volunteers make a big impact on our school. Sometimes the smallest things, like sharpening twenty-five pencils before an activity makes all of the difference. They provide an unmeasurable amount of support to the School of Hope and we are very grateful for each and every one of them.