What? So What? Now What?
As an assignment for their Community Partnership class, CIEE Service-Learning students of Fall 2014 were asked to answer three questions in a reflection about their community practicuum: "What? So What? Now What?" Read about the experience of Victoria Ware, who is working with Niños con una Esperanza this semester. She gives us insight into the nature of her community, Cienfuegos, a neighborhood in Santiago de los Caballeros.
What happened today?
Today, I woke up early to finish some homework for class. I ate breakfast with my host family, and walked to PUCMM (Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra) with my classmate, Hannah. We went to our Research Methods class first, and then our Poverty and Development and Capstone classes followed. I ran home after class to change, eat, and drop off my bag. I ate too fast and walked to a street near El Monumento de los Heroes de la Restauración or “The Monument” (a major historical landmark near my neighborhood in Santiago) to wait at the stop for the Route K concho (public transportation car). I took the K concho to calle España (Spain Street) and crossed the street to take another concho to Cienfuegos, a large barrio (neigbhorhood) on the outskirts of the city. The driver and another woman in the concho were very friendly. We talked a bit and I learned that the driver is studying English. The driver stopped to put air in the tires and talk to his friends. After a while, I got dropped off on a corner near a motoconcho (public transportation motorcycle) stop. From there, I walked to my workplace, the organization, Niños con Una Esperanza or NCUE (Children with a Hope). I greeted many of the people in the community on my way to work because they are very friendly and always want to talk to me. When I had nearly reached NCUE, I saw some children playing in the street and when I passed by a store there, I saw a three or four year-old boy walking with a Corona bottle. Once I arrived to the organization, I set about my work for the day, teaching children English.. I spent a lot of time helping them and learned more new words in Spanish. Later, I went with some girls who told me they had homework but really just wanted to play. Because they had no English homework, I tried to teach them parts of the body and other words in English. After I finished for the day, I went home to eat and work on my homework late into the night.
Why does it matter? What did I learn?
Today was very interesting because I saw many new things. Every day is different walking to Niños con una Esperanza because I encounter new people in the street doing this and that. I learned a lot in class today and I also learned a lot about the community I work in, Cienfuegos. For example, I asked Elizabeth, the director of NCUE and my supervisor this semester, about the child I saw with the bottle of Corona. She explained that people sell bottles in the communty for money, and maybe the boy was drinking another drink out of the Corona bottle. But she also told me it is entirely possible that this child was drinking a beer because his parents were too busy and they were not watching carefully. This is a good example of the conditions in Cienfuegos, as I've learned. Some parents do not care or are too busy to take good care of their children. Often, children are playing in the streets or are with their parents working when they should be in school.
I also learned that located right beside NCUE is a school where some of the students enrolled in Elizabeth's program go to study in the morning. It is something of a surprise to me to see how many other institutions there are near NCUE working with children. I also witnessed an incident between Elizabeth and a boy who was standing outside our building. He was talking to the other students and trying to listen in on what they were doing in the classroom because he could not register at NCUE this term.
This experience will help me to continue to learn about the mission of NCUE, the community of Cienfuegos, and problems that exist there. Every day is a new experience, even just walking from the motoconcho stop to my organization. It is interesting to see how much the kids in the community want to go to NCUE. The other day some children entered without permission because they wanted to play with everyone else during recess. Elizabeth told me that children are always looking for a way in. As every day is a new opportunity to learn about the program, I can use my new knowledge in the future to inform my work and the project I will soon be implementing here as part of my practicuum.