Shalini Huaraz

Volunteer Blog: Adventures in Economic Development

“I got four moms in today!”

Milandra, another Eco Dev volunteer, showed off how busy her day in the microcredit office was. It was week five a SKIP for me, and I had only gotten four moms in total in all my time working the office. I never hid my jealousy of the fact that Milandra always won when it came to mom-interaction in the office; after all, the moms are everyone’s favorite part of Eco Dev!

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My name is Shalini and I spent two months volunteering with the Economic Development program at SKIP. I’m currently studying economic development at the University of Michigan, and I wanted a chance to explore how this worked on the field as well as improve my Spanish. SKIP’s program exceeded my expectations. I not only learned about how microfinance programs work, but I got to do so in a culturally immersive environment.

My typical week included a house visit, a shift in the microcredit office, everyone’s favorite task—data entry, and sometimes, workshops with the mothers. Most of the Eco Dev work included some form of interaction with community members. House visits were more than just asking questions about why a loan payment was late; these were times when we were invited to sit inside homes, chat with moms about their kids, and watch them run their bodegas with the confidence of a real business owner, and if we were lucky, they gave us free bananas! These moments showed me the applications of microcredit; from it be raising pigs to owning pantry stores, I saw how microcredit fosters innovation and entrepreneurship.

Furthermore, I had countless opportunities to improve my Spanish. The epitome of my experience speaking-Spanish was conducting business workshops for the moms with my coworkers. With each 45-minute session, I was challenged to be conversational, disintegrate challenging topics to understandable lessons, and use economics-related vocabulary. I was required to have a thorough understanding of SKIP’s economic development program as well as knowledge of the mothers’ economic situations in order to relay how factors such as interest rates, budgeting and saving impact their daily lives. This experience was my first step in professionalism in Spanish and has given me a good starting point from which I can continue to expand my language skills.

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The most memorable part of Eco Dev was seeing the mothers’ community. Laughing while making jewelry, veteran mothers encouraging new mothers to join the Eco Dev program, the confidence with which they explain their businesses and ideas—this shaped my perspective to look beyond the data entry days to the big picture moments of the soft skills gained through pursuing economic development. My experience with SKIP has taught me that the right tools truly bring out people’s brilliance and innovation. Needless to say, the full experience of Eco Dev can only be understood once experienced, and I can surely say that I would experience this all over again.

~Shalini Rao

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Volunteer Blog: Psychology Electives in SKIP

Wow! I can’t not believe my time is already up in PASEO program. My name is Ali. I am a rising 3rd year clinical psychology doctoral student who participated in the PASEO program and worked with SKIP for 4 weeks this summer.

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I was initially drawn to the program for a number of reasons. Personally and clinically, PASEO provided an opportunity to improve my Spanish to be able to conduct therapy and assessments with Spanish- speaking clients. While this is an ongoing goal of mine, it has been difficult to realize given the limited opportunities for Spanish-speaking training. As an incoming low/intermediate speaker, the opportunity to take Spanish classes increased my confidence in having the language tools to get the most out of an immersion experience. Supplementing such learning with an understanding of cultural competency and adapted evidence-based practice for Latino populations seemed like an integral piece to such training that was offered by PASEO. Further, the ability to learn and train in an immersive environment abroad seemed like a dream come true (cheesy, but true!). Lastly, the program also appealed to my research interests in global mental health providing not only seminars in the topic, but the chance to actually see mental health services abroad. Really only one of these reasons would have attracted me to the program, but having so many just compounded my excitement.

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Amazingly, over my time working with SKIP and in the program, all my expectations were met and exceeded. I feel that I have a much stronger foundation in language skills that will be the starting point from which to continue my training and learning. General Spanish classes, those specific to psychology, immersion and exposure to the language all worked together to facilitate such a foundation. (I would write the next sentence in Spanish but don’t want to show off). Classes in cultural competency, global health, working with Latino youth and families, and working in low-resources settings enhanced my appreciation for the immersion experience, the field, the people, and the immense need. I felt that this all culminated to then being able to actually work and interact with youth and families in the area through service-learning. Teaching and working with the families themselves was invaluable. Being able to actually learn from the youth and families in the community with every interaction defined much of my experience in the program. (Also seeing the look on a child’s face when he or she does not understand you in Spanish is a quick way to really begin and try learning the language without embarrassment.) Further being able to observe and participate in groups and workshops for youth and mothers began to teach me how to use the language and clinical techniques specific to working in this community. For example, watching how the psychologist would introduce topics such as discipline strategies or suicide in a safe and effective manner was important to my clinical skill development.

While I think it should be obvious by now my feelings about this experience, there were two more aspects of PASEO and SKIP that shaped my time. That was working and learning in Peru and the people. Being in such a culturally rich, welcoming, and warm country I felt flooded by opportunities to learn from everything around me. The families at SKIP further embodied such openness and welcoming. Lastly, the people involved in the program (and outside the program) were wonderful. I left the program with a network of individuals who are all passionate about contributing to minimizing the need for mental health services for Latino youth and families. I believe that this network, along with continued supervision of my individualized goals through the program, will help me improve as a Spanish speaker, clinician, researcher and student. The amount I learned through the experiences in this program is hard to describe, but I feel very agradecido por it all. I hope to be back soon!!ali

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Kindergarten “MY LITTLE SCHOOL” (Baby explorers)

“My little school” (Escuelita) was the name of the class for the 1 and 2 year olds. It took time for the children to adapt to their new experience in first grade of cycle 1. They got used to the routine such as not crying when they entered the classroom. The strategy was to be kind and give them confidence, and we did this by starting off the routine with toys, going outside to the playground to eat lunch in train formation, singing at the start of an activity and using movement activities with instruments and music, believing that they can enjoy growing up and their education without missing out on the opportunity to sing, play and share. This is the best recipe so that they form an excellent relationship with learning and means that they can learn in a fun way.

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~ Ingrid Pereda Valdiviezo (SKIP Nursery Teacher)

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Sandboarding Classes

The year began with a Holiday Club designed to occupy the free time of El Porvenir’s young people in a different and exciting way. We thought it would be good to repeat sandboarding, so we got back in touch with Wilson Ibáñez, the instructor in charge of this activity last year. He worked with us, providing us with the sandboards and his knowledge and experience as a teacher in schools, not to mention giving us the peace of mind of working with a professional sandboarder.

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The instructor helped us from the start. He paid close attention to the safety of the children and the way they went about the activity. We sandboarded on Bolongo Hill in Alto Trujillo, a huge mountain of sand where the children could enjoy the sport once a week on a voluntary basis. It was a popular activity and the number of youngsters doing it gradually increased.

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Wilson shared his know-how and helped us achieve our first runs down the hill. He showed us how to get the most out of sandboarding, how to improve our technique, and how not to get frustrated if we kept falling over. All in all, a healthy activity and an experience that everyone really enjoyed.

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We asked one of the youngsters to write a short article about their experience of sandboarding, which you can read below.
~ Montse Garzon.

What do you think of sandboarding?
I think that it’s an enjoyable sport, which you can have fun doing. Sandboarding can help you to clear your mind. It’s a healthy sport that doesn’t hurt anyone and can be done by children and teenagers.
What is sandboarding?
It’s a sport that you do on sand using a board.
What’s your opinion of sandboarding?
I think that more young people in El Porvenir should know about it. Personally, I’d like it if there were events with sandboarding competitions. All the young people from El Porvenir could be invited to take part, and this would help to reduce the influence of gang culture.
How do you feel when you do sandboarding?
I felt relaxed, de-stressed and very happy doing the sport. When I started, I felt a little nervous and afraid, but when I started doing it, all that went away.
How do you think you could organise the events you mentioned earlier?
Working with the local government of El Porvenir, and the police, colleges and SKIP – all together they could make these events happen, for the benefit of the young people of El Porvenir.

~ Heidy Dayanne Valdiviezo Vasquez

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8 new SKIPpers Start at our New Nursery

An exciting new project got underway on March 10th as we opened the doors to our youngest SKIPpers yet, aged just one and two years old. 8 children have been enrolled to participate in the SKIP nursery which takes place Monday to Friday in the mornings between 8 and 12. The objective is to enable parents and carers to work without worrying about child care and to provide an educationally stimulating environment for the children.
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For the first morning, parents and carers spent half an hour settling the children in and then, some a little anxiously, left their children to enjoy activities in the nursery. They soon realised there was no need to worry, though, Ingrid who is a qualified Early Years Teacher, has prepared a great curriculum and with support from Teaching Assistant, Patricia, the classes have been going great.
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This new project has been made possible by the fundraising efforts of a French organisation, Por Les Bebes, who are covering all the costs of running the nursery. Without this support, the project would not have been possible so HUGE thanks to Por Les Bebes and their President, Isabelle le Moal, we look forward to bringing you more updates on how things are going as the year progresses.
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Another Year … Fun and learning go hand in hand at the holiday club

At the start of every year, during January and February to tie in with the students’ school holidays, we at SKIP run our Holiday Club.

Everything starts with the planning and organisation: timetables, groups, lists, teachers, activities, workshops, applications, jobs, etc. All in the name of creating a place and a time for fun, alternative leisure activities and meaningful learning.

A few weeks dedicated to continuing learning in a more active, practical and creative way, using the students’ holiday time so as to not lose the dynamic built up over the rest of the year, as well as promoting healthy leisure activities.

Appropriate ways to organise having been found and a lot of effort having been put into the planning, the fun can start.

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At Primary, from Monday to Friday, two of the five days are dedicated to continuing to reinforce communication and maths skills with a fun component, and specific topics, mixing academia with magic: communication through history, colours, tastes and the flora and fauna of Latin America, or impossible riddles and tongue-twisters, or learning maths by way of experimentation, magic and science, or origami to teach geometry.

The teachers of these subjects led their groups with an effort, dedication, constant work and sincerest love that brought out the best in themselves as well as the students, perfectly managing the children’s behaviour and creating a truly magical and relaxed atmosphere every day.

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English, as ever, was full of surprises, such as learning in English how to plant a seed and watch it grow, and added to the magic that drives these weeks. The energy and creativity of the teachers brought about truly fun activities and learning that held more meaning for the students.

Sport always figures among our activities and on this occasion we had a Brazilian volunteer on the team who organised treasure hunts, obstacle courses and impossible ball-passing challenges.

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Art and recycling proved to be the best way to continue raising awareness among the children of El Porvenir. Robots, masks, collages… all planned and organised with the utmost care by the subject teachers to be as free as possible. It really was a space that allowed the children to create, imagine and express themselves freely, resulting in great works of art.

Music was taught alongside theatre and, largely thanks to the teachers’ effort, creativity and involvement , turned out to be one of the Holiday Club’s most powerful workshops. They learnt songs, keeping the rhythm with buckets, water bottles and other recycled materials that could be turned into musical instruments, acted and, throwing off any shyness, fully expressed themselves.

Another star of the Holiday Club was the subject Values, the SKIP psychologist, who, with the help of other psychology volunteers, ran workshops and activities to promote teamwork, respect towards others and conflict resolution through empathy and understanding rather than violence. Everyone enjoyed the videos and activities, and, of course, carried on learning to better themselves.

The swimming pool: water, games, sun, joy, excitement, splashing, delight. All with the end of offering our students a place of learning and play, through the greatest possible involvement and commitment from the volunteers.

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All this was designed to be a party to say goodbye to the summer and to welcome in the new school year, with a special ‘see you’ to the primary class of 2014 going on to secondary school in 2015, who made such a huge effort over the whole year to reach their goals. Well done everyone! Carry on studying so hard and so well.

At the farewell party, we were able to enjoy 5 fun water games ending in a “water fight” between everyone, which the students had been waiting for since the moment they saw the first drop of water.

Every day made us laugh, rejoice, learn together, jump for joy, dance, hug, dream… Every day filled us with satisfaction, joy and even (we could just squeeze some more in) love.

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A huge thanks to all the team that worked on the Holiday Club 2015: Megan, Alex, Rachel, Smile, Grace, Theo, Diego, Nadia, Loredana, Lori, Jake H., Jake S., Katarina, Brie, Jean Claire, Joy, Diego, Kerrie, Cheryl, Laura and David.

It’s been a pleasure to learn together!

Great work, team!

Another year, mission completed… fun and learning!

~ Vanessa Bellón, Primary Coordinator.

Click here to see more photos of the holiday club

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SKIP does Hollywood

At the SKIP Holiday Club, secondary students were given the opportunity to improve their English language skills through the exploration of cinema and filmmaking. Students watched English language films and discussed genres, storytelling and character development. Students then worked together to create their own films in English, including practicing techniques to better project their voice while on camera. One group used interview techniques and monologues to create a range of documentary shorts. The second group wrote, directed and starred in a horror/comedy short about zombies.

At the end of the holiday club students were given the opportunity to provide feedback on the unit of work, and have input into the focus of English classes at SKIP in the future.

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Student feedback about the class was overwhelmingly positive:
100% of respondents said that the class was fun.
95% of respondents said that they would tell their friends to do this class if it was offered next year.
85% of respondents felt that because of the class they were more confident about speaking and reading English.

Here is some of what students had to say about what they learnt:

‘I learnt how to act in front of a camera alone and not to be scared’ ‘aprendí a desenvolverme sola en la película y no tener meido’

‘[I learnt] to speak better English and filming techniques’ ‘[aprendí] hablar mejor inglés y técnicas para grabar

‘[I learnt] how to create a film [and] how to speak English with fluency’. ‘[aprendí] como hacer una película [y] como hablar con inglés fluido’

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Students’ favourite parts of the class included:

‘creating and developing a film [and] when we were painted as zombies’ ‘crear la película y desarrollarla [y] cuando pintaron a los zombies’

‘screaming when the zombies were chasing me’ ‘gritar cuando los zombis me perseguían’

‘the filming and when we had to shout very loud, more slowly and almost silently (whisper)’ ‘las grabaciones y cuando teníamos que gritas más fuerte, más despacio y casi silencio (bajo)’

‘being a zombie’ ‘ser zombie’

‘when we made our monologues’ ‘cuando hicimos nuestros monólogos’

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Students provided a diverse range of responses when asked what they would like the focus of English classes at SKIP to be in the future, including: a focus on vocabulary and grammar; reading; conversational fluency; and more storytelling, filmmaking and exposure to English language media. We will use this feedback as with think about our future planning so we can continue providing fun and engaging lessons.

~Nadia Phillips

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SKIP Director Published in Academic Journal

SKIP Director, Liz Wilson, has had an article published in an academic journal this month for a special Edition of the Journal of Worldwide Tourism and Hospitality Themes exploring “How and Why the Volunteer Tourism Experience Should be Improved?” Liz’s contribution entitled, “Finding the Win-Win: Providing supportive and enriching volunteer tourism experiences while promoting sustainable social change” explores issues around child protection and encourages practice improvements within the industry to better safeguard both volunteers and people they may be working with.

For those who have access to online journals, the article can be obtained on Emerald Insight or we are also publishing the article here with permission from the publisher.