Friday, October 18, 2013

Uni se Une

On the outskirts of La Paz lies Uni, a rural village connected to the city by a dirt road through the mountains.  Twice daily a bus runs to and from the centre of La Paz. Between times, the villagers enjoy impressive views of the mountains and pursue livelihoods dependent on the land: agriculture, farming, and eco-tourism. The inhabitants of this vast area include around 200 children, most of whom attend the village school, which provides education and extra-curricular support to children ranging from 2 years old to older teenagers. 

Some of the ChildFund team in Uni
Working together for International Service, ChildFund, and the local educators at Uni school, we have attended sessions at Uni on Mondays. As we are new to the children and community of Uni, our first couple of sessions have focussed on getting to know the community; especially the madres (mothers), educators, and the children. We have played games with the children and supported the educators during their lessons by providing much needed extra eyes and hands (more than 200 children are taught by only 5 educators!). 

Unfortunately we have not been able to spend as much time with the madres as we would have liked; because of staff shortages, we have needed to shift our attention to looking after groups of children, who otherwise would be placed (inappropriately) in classes of different ages. This week, Hannah and I expected to speak with the madres to discuss capacity-building workshops we are running. However, a lot more children arrived than were expected to and we were suddenly left to supervise and create a lesson for 30 toddlers! This tested our patience, Spanish, behaviour management skills, and adaptability!

Children enjoying their lunch, which chatting to members
of the team
Besides staff shortages, sanitation facilities at the school are sub-standard, to the extent that they probably contribute to the spread of preventable diseases among the children. The toilet is a hole in the ground, there is no running water or soap. All the children show signs of illness. One of the services we help provide is serving lunch to the children and their madres, who otherwise might not receive a nutritious meal that day.

In addition to providing extra support to the educators, we hope to create a positive and lasting impression on the community of Uni in two ways: 1) by leading capacity-building workshops with the madres, working with them to develop new skills by creating artisan or household items using recycled materials, in addition to providing an intercultural space where we can exchange ideas and get to know each other, and 2) by working with the community to build a play area for the children, using recycled goods. 

For our projects to be successful, we must work with the community of Uni: the educators, children, and their families. This entails responding appropriately to their needs, communicating well with all involved, and taking an adaptable, pragmatic, and positive approach. Both projects are already underway – invitations have been sent to all madres to attend our first workshop in a fortnight’s time, and we are due to attend a community wide meeting at the end of the month to begin building the children’s play area. Provided all continue working together, we hope to make good headway with both projects!

Written by Kelly-Marie Roberts

No comments:

Post a Comment