Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The first meetings

First of all, thank you so much to everyone who so generously donated to the library project!  Hopefully, as the rainy season is beginning to dry out, we can start construction within the next couple of months!

Meanwhile, with only classes in the mornings, I have been looking for projects to keep me busy in the afternoons.  Last weekend, I had my first meetings for a newly formed girls club and English club.

First, the girls club. 

REDES: Back in 2005, a couple Peace Corps volunteers had the idea of creating a national organization called REDES - Raparigas Em Desenvolvimento, Educação, e Saúde (the English acronym would be GIDEH, Girls In Development, Education, and Health- not quite as catchy).  Now, the organization has grown to include over 90 youth groups, some run by a Peace Corps volunteer with a Mozambican counterpart, others solely run by a Mozambican leader.  In general, the goal of REDES is to empower young Mozambican women, giving them the knowledge to make good and healthy decisions, build successful futures and reduce their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS.

I first presented the idea of starting a REDES group to a woman named Lidia who works with AJUDEMU (the organization I am working with on the library project).  Lidia is everything a strong counterpart should be; she is a successful Mozambican woman, has a career, and is reliable and passionate about doing volunteer work in her community.  Unfortunately, Lidia may be transferred out of Murrupula for her job, and, ultimately, the goal is that the group will continue without me once I leave at the end of the year.  To combat this, Lidia suggested working with a 20 year old student, Neusa, to teach her about how to be a leader and take over the group once she is transferred.

Last Saturday was REDES-Murrupula’s first meeting.  I think due to some confusion about the date/time of the first meeting plus unfamiliarity with the location, only four girls came to the first, of what will be weekly, meeting.  Admittedly somewhat disappointed, we attempted to continue with our planned agenda.  We played a name game using a couple beach balls and explained more about the somewhat foreign concept of what a “girls club” actually means and what type of activities we would/could do together.  It was all a little less energetic than I had envisioned and had room for improvement, but hopefully this coming Saturday will bring more members.

English Club: Immediately following this first REDES meeting, I went to the school for the first English Club meeting.  There, I am working with another English teacher to provide a venue for students to come practice their English in a fun environment.

 Through advertising with a colorful sign taped to the school wall, over 30 students attended this first Saturday meeting!  I knew a lot of students were interested in having some English help, but, after a somewhat disappointing REDES turnout, this all went so much better than I could have envisioned! 

I am hoping to begin each Saturday meeting with some type of song, whether it be a radio song or a “Hokey Pokey” type song.  This week, we taught them the chorus to “Glad You Came” by The Wanted. The lyrics are as follows:

The sun goes down
The stars come out
And all that counts
Is here and now
My universe will never be the same
I’m glad you came

They loved it!  Following the song, we discussed what English Club was and organized other meeting times during weekday afternoons, then played a name game practicing simple introduction sentences, followed by a twist on the game I’ve always called “Move Your Booty”, but changed to “Everybody Who…”  One person stands in the middle of a circle of people standing close together and he/she has to say something like “Everybody who has sandals” and then everyone wearing sandals must run to find a different spot in the circle, leaving a new person to stand in the center.  I was a little unsure how the game would go over with students who have a limited vocabulary, but it couldn’t have gone better!  It is definitely a game we will be playing again using a sentence like “Everybody who likes…” or “Everybody who is…”

On Monday as I walked up to the school in the morning, a few students shouted to me, “Good Morning, Teacher! I’m glad you came!”  And I could hear some other students practicing singing along to the lyrics as they played their most recently downloaded song on their cell phone.  J

After a frustrating Monday morning of dealing with irregular and weak electricity and thus impossible computer lessons, in the afternoon I had my first weekday meeting for English Club.  This time, over 20 students came.  I began the meeting with a tongue twister to practice the “th” sound, a difficult sound for someone whose native language has nothing even resembling it.  “The thousand thieves thought that the other thirty-three thieves took their things.”  Then we made some club rules, answered some vocab questions including translations of words from “pumpkin” to “pea” to “Chemistry”.  We then had a team/group competition to practice making sentences with the new vocab and ended by repeating the tongue twister faster and faster. 

All in all, I am totally pleased with how these first meetings went.  Yes, REDES has room for improvement, but even with just four girls, I returned home feeling content, feeling like I am starting to do what I came here to do and what I enjoy doing. 

P.S. Any ideas for games, icebreakers, activities, suggestions, etc. are greatly welcomed!  E-mail, Facebook, comment below.  Thanks J

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