I have been working at a new elementary school since March. I felt like last year was a constant struggle working at the elementary in the center of my town (where I did the world map and the read-a-thon). The crappy principle and uncooperative teachers just really wore me down. I heard there was a small school located on a farm at the edge of my town, about 4 kilometers away in a place called El Oriente (the orient). I decided that at the beginning of this school year in February I would go introduce myself and see if there was anything I could help with. I was going to wait a few weeks after school started to visit to let the beginning-of-the-year excitement die down and let them get into the swing of things. However, during the first week of school a man in my town told me that the principal of the elementary had sent him to ask me to come out there to talk about possible projects. I thought, “YESSS!!!! WOOOO!!!! YAY!” It was a great feeling to know that I was thinking of them and they were thinking of me!
It’s a school of 3 classrooms, a kindergarten room, and a cafeteria. There are 40 students from kindergarten through 6th grade. Kids come from various small communities in the area. Some walk for an hour to arrive at the school. The majority of the students come from very low-income families. Some are children of migrant workers in town for the coffee or sugar cane harvesting season. The school is located on a farm owned by a rich Costa Rican. The owner has sugar cane, cows, and high-class horses that are bred and sold. There are about 10 families that live on the town and are employees. The owner is hardly ever there, I met him once and he seems rich and nice enough.
The principle also teaches the 4th 5th and 6th graders in one room and the other teacher is with the 1st 2nd and 3rd graders in another classroom. Once a week they have PE, Music, and Religion. These teachers are ones that are assigned to give classes in all the schools in a district. In the district of Pejibaye there are 4 schools (Pejibaye, the one in the center of my town, the one up the hill in El Humo, El Oriente, and one in a place called Las Vueltas which is about 4 km away in a different direction). So, for example, the PE teacher teaches in Pejibaye Monday and Tuesday, then in El Humo on Wednesday, El Oriente on Thursday and then Las Vueltas on Friday. The principal and I talked and he mentioned that they want to paint something on one of the walls that faces the road in front of the school with the name of the elementary and a symbol of some sort. We would need to raise money for this to buy the paint etc. The school is in pretty bad condition; in one classroom parts of the ceiling are falling down, there is major paint chippage going on, and there is hardly anywhere for the kids to play during recess. As time has gone on, I have really come to regret not going out there earlier in my service. I could have used the few resources that Peace Corps provides to fund projects to help them out. Now its too late and the deadlines for the grants have passed because I have so little time left.
It just so happened that the volunteers in the Central Valley had decided to coordinate an event called Arte Por la Paz (Art for Peace). This consists of volunteers working individually giving anti-violence and pro-peace art workshops in their schools. Then, the volunteer selects a group of students to prepare different kinds of art within the same theme of peace and anti-violence. Then, all the volunteers and their groups come together to share the art, etc. I started working with the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders from El Oriente in the beginning of March and after doing 3 or 4 workshops with all 20 of the students I selected 10 students for my group. There are 3 doing visual arts, 1 doing poetry, and 6 doing dance. They have been preparing their art for the past month and on May 15th we will attend the “Arte Por la Paz” event together with the groups that the other volunteers are bringing.