Tam Winter, a volunteer from the UK, shares his experience at the School of Hope and how he contributed to the school's programme.
I spent four weeks working at a project called The School of Hope, a Primary and Secondary school that provides education for roughly six hundred children (they also run a scholarship programme for students to continue to High School and University). The Guatemalan government provides children’s education free of charge, but the cost of books and writing materials can be too high for many of the poorest families, especially since a lot of children are expected to work to help support their family. The school provides these materials for its pupils, as well as two nutritious meals a day.
The school has introduced a system of bilingual teaching, or ‘total immersion’, whereby each year is divided into two classes that alternate from day to day between learning only in English, and learning in Spanish. This is because speaking English is invaluable for working in Guatemala’s tourism industry, and even basic spoken English is a huge boost to the children’s job prospects once they graduate. I had the opportunity to see both sides, spending two weeks in either. Although I am by no means an expert, I thought the quality of the teaching was good, especially in English and Maths.
"Speaking English is invaluable for working in Guatemala’s tourism industry, and a huge boost to the children’s job prospects."
I was particularly keen to contribute to the musical education of the children, so I spoke to the staff, proposing that I take a few music lessons a week, as I sing and play guitar. They were highly enthusiastic about the idea, and for my final two weeks I taught six classes a week, including two after-school guitar classes, which involved teaching the children songs that I knew.
This is an example of one of the great qualities of the school –flexibility. It is still a young organisation, experimenting with and testing different ideas and methods of teaching.
The school was very welcoming towards the volunteers, with a dedicated Volunteers Coordinator who provided a friendly point-of-contact with the teachers, and spoke perfect English which was a huge help to those whose Spanish was basic. We had weekly meetings where we could bring up issues or suggest ideas.
The school also helped arrange Spanish lessons at a huge discount at a school nearby, which was ideal. I stayed with a local host family in a house which was comfortable and a great base from which to socialise and enjoy the town of Antigua.
The school was very welcoming towards the volunteers, with a dedicated Volunteers Coordinator who provided a friendly point-of-contact with the teachers.
I hugely enjoyed my time at the school and I can only admire the work that EFTC has done and continues to do. The school is more than an educational establishment – it's a community institution.
I participated in the construction of a new house for the family of one of the pupils, which was sorely necessary: many of the children live in appalling conditions in shanty towns near to the school. The school also provides clean water in the pupils’ homes, and support including sexual health information to their parents. It is a safe, clean place for the children to live and learn, full of positivity and the promise of a better future. It is rightly called the School of Hope.
"Full of positivity and the promise of a better future, it is rightly called the School of Hope."