Summer is a great time to relax, hang out with friends and family, and travel to different places. It is also the perfect time to engage in different cultural experiences and help out those around the world who really need support. This summer, I began my month-long journey in Guatemala, alongside two fellow students from Western Reserve Academy. We spent our first week volunteering at Los Patojos, an educational institution in Antigua, Guatemala.
|[WRA students before leaving for Guatemala. Photo taken by Ms. Emily Thews-Baldridge]|
Founded by Juan Pablo Romero Fuentes, Los Patojos provides free education to students in pre-kindergarten-ninth grade in order to give hopes to children in a country where drugs and gangs are commonplace. Fuentes used part of his family home to create the organization, showing us his devotion and willingness to protect children from violence and ultimately to change the world.
On the first day at Los Patojos, we were split into three different classrooms and began our work by assisting our homeroom teachers and leading some classes. We were assigned to help younger children (five- to seven-years old), as they needed the most support. Some of the things we helped with included preparing materials for class activities, helping kids get food at lunch, and managing the classroom environment.
The unique part about our experience at Los Patojos was the student-led projects. Each of us had prepared our own activity to teach kids something. One of us had prepared to utilize paper plates to teach children how to make paper turtles. I had decided to teach kids some magic tricks. For me, the hardest part was to communicate in Spanish as I taught the tricks. For instance, I did not know how to say, “Cut the deck of cards in half” in Spanish. Despite the language barrier, I loved seeing the kids enjoy my magic, and at the same time, my Spanish improved immensely.
|[James Doh (author) performing magic tricks to children at Los Patojos.
Photo taken by Ms. Emily Thews-Baldridge]
To see what the other two students, Suzannah and Vivien, thought about their experience at Los Patojos, I asked them a series of questions:
1. What did you do for your individual project, and how did the kids in your classroom respond to it?
a. Suzannah: “I taught the kids how to make paper plate turtles. They very much enjoyed making them, and they particularly loved the googly eyes.”
b. Vivien: “I led the exercise in which we created paintings with watercolor. They liked the activity, and ended up hanging their paintings on the wall!”
2. Did you face any challenge? If so, what was it?
a. Suzannah: “Talking to the kids was the hardest part. They spoke so fast that I had hard time understanding.”
b. Vivien: “Yeah, I agree. Kids did talk very fast. They even looked at me like I was stupid.”
3. What will you miss the most about Los Patojos?
a. Suzannah: “The kids.”
b. Vivien: “Yes, the kids. They are so cute.”
After spending a week at Los Patojos, we will be separated into different host families and attend local highschool with the host siblings. We look forward to continuing our exciting journeys in Guatemala!
James “Jihun” Doh
Western Reserve Academy
James “Jihun” Doh firstname.lastname@example.org
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