Thursday, April 02, 2009

Graduation in the Campo

For the last few months, some of us ex-pats here in San Miguel have been teaching English at a small school in the country. When I say country, I mean country. To get there we go over sandy, dusty roads, through a river bed and then up a hill over a deeply rutted, potholed rockbed to get to the school. I think everyone who has done the driving has wondered if their car's suspension will survive or how they will ever repair the paint job where the mesquite has scratched the sides of the car. But this is a pretty amazing and dedicated group of ex-pats. A lot of them are only here for a few months out of the year but they have given freely of their time to teach English to the children in Los Ricos. Some of them are retired teachers but everyone who has gone out has fallen in love with these beautiful children who have great spirit even if they own few material possessions.

The English classes started as a pilot program in 2007 through Feed The Hungry an organization here in San Miguel that has built kitchens in 35 schools, mostly in the campo, and prepares comida for 4000 children each day who would otherwise not have a meal.

I went out to help the first year of the pilot program and while I'm not a very good teacher I wanted to see these children have the opportunity to read books. A lot of people have donated books so that this year for the first time we had a library and I was one of the librarians. What a thrill it was to see the children come in every week to check out books and take them home. I worried that they might not bring them back but they did, every week. Even though most of the books were in English with more vocabulary than they knew, they wanted to use the library.

Wednesday was the last day of English classes and the children prepared a grand program for us. Each class had a dance to perform. There was singing, and recitals of poems. Mothers had made costumes and the children didn't just go through the motions, they relished their performances as you can tell in these photographs.

To top it off the mothers, to show us their appreciation for the English classes, helped prepare a comida for us. It was a fabulous comida. I can tell you that between the children's performances and the generosity of the families in this village, there was more than one or two teary eyes among us. I think that all of us felt like we received far more than we gave.

This is the class of sixth graders. The kids are holding a Spanish/English dictionary that they were given for completing the English classes.

See the size of those adorable boys. Out in many of the poor campos, when boys finish primary school that is the end of schooling for them and they go to work with their fathers to help support the family. Last year when a Mexican neighbor was building an addition on to his house, a father and his son who looked to be about the age of these boys were the bricklayers. I can't get that boy out of my mind. I watched as his still immature little body carried stacks of bricks and loads of cement on his shoulders. The beginning of a life of very hard labor. And the girls....I'm sure if they cannot get additional education that they help their mothers and before many years go by, are mothers themselves.

Very few of the children in this village went on to secundaria school (middle school in the States)until the last couple of years when, through Feed The Hungry, some of the ex-pats started giving scholarships so that the kids could go. Do you know what it costs to send a child on to secundaria school? Less than $200 for the year but the families in this village do not have the money.

If you would like to help sponsor a child so that he or she can continue their education, please contact Feed the Hungry and designate, either by email or snail mail, that your contribution should go to the Los Ricos Scholarship Fund. Any amount large or small will be appreciated and will make a difference in a child's life.

This year I found bilingual books at Half-Priced Books. I've also been told that you can find used books at the Salvation Army or other similar re-sale shops. If you want to donate books for the library, please email Feed The Hungry Board Member, Dianne Hart. Her email is (dwaltahart at yahoo dot com).


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful work Billie. These kids are lucky.

Jonna said...

good work Billie, you are a good citizen of both countries.

Islagringo said...

Beautiful program, beautiful children, beautiful story. Until the end when we were snapped back to reality and what the future holds for most of these kids.

Billie said...

Wayne, I truly believe that we can make a difference in the lives of these children. We can't change Mexico but maybe we can change a life or two for the better.

norm said...

The fact that the boy is learning to lay bricks is not all bad. I was poor growing up here in Ohio and went to work at a young age doing wet plaster, brick work and cement finishing. None of these jobs are simple yet they do not require more than a grade school education. These jobs pay well because they require skills that take time to learn and ability that has to be developed. Laying bricks is a skill that travels well, a person can work anywhere in the world. It is funny that here I am at the end of my life, the men who built things for a living, have for the most part, the nicest homes in my social group. What does a teacher make compared to a skilled bricklayer in Mexico?