Thursday, September 6, 2007
Field-Based Training: What We Have Done So Far
I think I have learned in these first few weeks of FBT why Peace Corps drives around in huge 4WD gas-guzzling “batallas”. (They’re kind of like army jeeps where there are two benches in the back that we all sit on and face each other instead of face forward. These vehicles are needed to get to the most remote of sites (which are mainly PAMer sites). Before FBT, we got our first taste of what the roads are like going to some of the sites. We visited El Cantoral, a small agricultural community in a Protected Area where a good 30 minutes of the drive into El Cantoral was on a very narrow, windy, potholed and rain-washed road. Unfortunately, this is the only road in and out of El Cantoral and it’s not big enough for two cars. We asked Claudia, our project manager, what happens if a car is coming the other way and she replied, “Well, we just hope that doesn’t happen.” When we visited another Protected Areas site, we had to stop while heading up to the site to let another car pass and before we could get going again, Claudia had to jump out of the batalla and set the 4WD on the tires.
Rose, Ross, and our project manager, Claudia, at El Cantoral
PAMers at El Cantoral (Back row - left to right - Claudia, Rachel, Joe, Alice, Yonis (the farmer), Tristan, me, Gabe (current volunteer en Choluteca, Rose, and Ross
Front row - left to right - Areka, Mary, Liz, and Bryce)
So, some of the activities we have done so far:
We started FBT with learning about and making hydroponics for a resident of Morocelí with the Peace Corps volunteer of Morocelí, Tim.
Left to right: Rachel, Tim, Bryce, Ross, and Tristan putting the hydroponics together
Then, we moved onto watersheds and learned about what factors affect the quality of the water, what contaminates the watershed, and the importance of raising awareness in the communities about how to maintain clean, potable water. We ended this lesson with visiting a watershed in Hoya Grande.
Areka, Liz, Alice, and Mary with Claudia
Joe and Mary sawing the sides for the hydroponics
Now that we are in FBT, we have also gotten the opportunity to practice giving charlas (or talks) that we may want to give in our community. Our first week of FBT, we had a whole afternoon to give our very first talk (“charla”) to a Women’s Group (aka our host mothers) about home gardens and organic compost. We began with talking about the importance of having a home garden for nutrition and some other benefits that certain plants and crops provide. We then built an organic garden and planted a bunch of veggies like carrots, onions, cilantro, radish, mustard, beans, and squash. We also made a compost pile next to the garden.
PAMers and helpers after the charla on family gardens
This was a good first charla for us to do because there was more work to be done than talking and we were doing it for our host moms who were very patient with us.
Our completed family garden
We have done a lot of hands-on building and planting as well. We have learned how to construct latrines and build chicken coops. We also visited Hoya Grande again to plant trees and to make a dead barrier (aka a rock wall to protect crops and keep rain from washing away the soil). I think my favorite part of FBT is when we visit different sites where Peace Corps volunteers have had success in making a noticeable difference in their community. When we went to Hoya Grande to see the sustainable agricultural practices that the farmers used, it was really heartening to get to see the end result of a farm that is successful because a Peace Corps volunteer initiated the change and the farmer was able to continue to improve his farm after the volunteer left.
Hiking to the water tank in Hoya Grande
Mary, Ross, and I mixing cement for our latrine construction training
Also, when we went to build chicken coops at a volunteer’s site, her whole Women’s Group that she helped establish came to meet us and talked about how they have felt so empowered organizing the chicken coop project and how they really appreciate that we want to come here to live and help. Sometimes the concept that we are going to go into these communities and are expected to help them change and improve their way of life can seem abstract and even unfeasible. But we were able to see just how possible that really is and that people will be supportive of us in our sites.
View of Hoya Grande
I think one of the greatest benefits that I have gotten from FBT is a lot of experience with giving charlas in Spanish and talking in front of classes or groups of people. During our Spanish hours of the day, my Spanish class (Alice, Liz, and I) has been doing a lot of work in the school here in El Suyate. So far, we have taught an hour of English to the 2nd and 4th grade class and we gave a small charla about our majors in college to the fifth grade class. We also changed our home garden charla to a school garden charla which we presented to the fifth grade class and then together we planted a garden at the school. It´s great getting to work in the schools and I am amazed at how flexible and supportive the teachers have been of our activities. They´re always willing to help us out and have given us a lot of their classroom time to allow us to work with the kids.
This last week, two days of our training was dedicated to an HIV/AIDS awareness session. Three volunteers came to Morocelí to teach us techniques on how to give an effective charla to students about HIV/AIDS. Us PAMers were split into three groups and we prepared a 3 hour charla on HIV/AIDS awareness to present to 13-15 year olds at the Morocelí school the next day. Even after the experience from the previous charlas, I was the most nervous for this charla because the kids we were presenting to were older than I was used to and there wasn’t a big activity in between that they would have to work on (such as building a garden). Instead, it was really 3 hours of us in a classroom talking, explaining, and teaching them about HIV/AIDS . . . in Spanish! The charla covered everything from the definition of HIV, transmission, prevention, and we ended the charla with teaching them how to properly put a condom on a banana. There were a lot of informative games and activities that we did with them and one of the three PCV that came to teach us came with us to fill in the gaps of our talk. Overall, the charla was awesome!! Everything went smoothly and when we read the suggestions they wrote for us, all they had to say was that they really enjoyed the charla, they learned a lot that they didn’t know before, and they want us to come back! After that charla, I have definitely gained a lot of confidence in my Spanish speaking skills and my speaking skills in general in front of a class.
Students picking up garbage around the school after the trash management charla