Teaching English in Las Lomas
I started volunteering in Otra Cosa’s HELP English project last May. I was placed in two different “village schools” in the outskirts of Huanchaco, in the neighbourhoods of La Lomas and Huanchaquito. I already had quite a lot of teaching experience and my Spanish was pretty good, so I was given extra responsibility and put in charge of both schools. I was even able to teach without a co-teacher for quite a while! Both of the schools were so small, (about 70 students), that I got to know all the students pretty fast, and in my five months of volunteering I really felt like I became a part of the community.
All the classes were pretty small, and quite often there were students missing. On Fridays my co-teacher went to one school to teach physical education and I went to the other to help where needed. Most of the time I helped in the 5th and 6th class where on Friday the students studied other subjects like maths, science and history. I improved my Spanish a lot and learned quite a few things about pre-Colombian cultures.
Living on the other side of the river
About two months before finishing my volunteering I had to move out of the house where I was staying and I found a nice and affordable place in Las Lomas, one of the neighborhoods where I was teaching. My new home was only about ten minutes walk from the main street of Huanchaco but it felt like a whole different world. Crossing the dry river and climbing up the stairs to the “cerrito” I left behind the international feeling of Huanchaco and entered the completely Peruvian neighbourhood. In Las Lomas the streets are unpaved, the houses seemed a bit unfinished. But the people were friendly and everything you need was close by. On my first day in Las Lomas I was asked to help in a community project to build a handrail for a new staircase and I ended up carrying rocks with my new neighbours, who rewarded my effort with a home-made meal. But the nicest thing about living there was the children who always came running to greet and hug me when I was going out to buy something or walk my dog.
Going out with a bang
Just before leaving Huanchaco we organized an English exhibition together with the children and the class teachers. During my time at the schools the other teachers organized “ferias” of science, history and other things. Inspired by that I asked the headmaster if we could do one for English too – draw and write words and sentences we’ve learned and hang them up for everyone in the school to see. It was a great way to get the students engaged and to do one last thing together before leaving.
Five months is not a very long time, but it’s enough to get to know the work and the students and other teachers – and also get very close to them. I was sad to leave, and the students were sad too. I tried to cheer them up by saying that there will be a nice new teacher. Anyone willing to give their time to the HELP English programme is really appreciated, and the longer you can stay the better! Your time is the greatest thing you can give to a child.
Volunteering in Huanchaco has been a great experience and I’ve really felt that the work I’ve done is really important. I definitely left a little piece of my heart there on the dusty streets of Las Lomas and Huanchaquito.
This blog was written by Kristiina Litola