Saturday, August 15, 2009

Updates from August

It has been raining here heavily for the past week and almost every day we are getting thunder showers with lightening. Our electrical current fluctuates constantly during all of this as the town I’m in works to avoid having lightning ruin the power grid we are on. Lightning rods are not used here (why? Who the hell knows), so our current goes out frequently and the Internet hasn’t been working in days. Today, it has been on so I’ve just had a moment to come online to post this blog. Yipee!

Our holiday reading course is just about wrapped up for the month of August and the teachers and us volunteers are very pleased with the turnout of children, their somewhat sustained attendance and the success of our teachers in teaching their material. It is a slow and laborious process, but the teachers we are working with are fortunately eager to learn and eager to test new ideas in their classrooms. The next challenge is to keep pressing them to try new things and be confident about what they have already learned. This will be an ongoing positive pressure that Derek, Trudy, and I will need to do during our service here. Luckily, this very thing has pinned down something concrete for me to do and call my own. After six months, I finally have bits and pieces to form the structure of my work here and I can proudly say I did this all on my own (with guidance from above volunteers of course).

Our “Learning Resources Centre” (spelled the English way because the Brits were the one to begin it – sigh, they are so pompous with their language), will most likely be my hub for work and my promotion of literacy, education, the arts, sciences, and of course music. Our center will become not only a library that provides books for children and teachers, but it will also serve as a model classroom. It will be a place for teachers to take their classes on mini field trips and special lessons that they may not be able to put on in their classrooms. It will also be a place to hold education workshops (as it has already been used for this), meetings for the community, education camps and courses (i.e. holiday reading course), a test examination center, a teacher training center, and a computer lab (once we get Internet hooked up).

Yes, it is a lot. Luckily, most of the resources, furniture, supplies, two computers, and technical equipment have already been purchased from the work of previous volunteers. It is our job (and ultimately my job) to continue raising funds to make improvements, repairs, and spawn new ideas in the promotion of this center. In the last year and a half, the center has become run down. It is not used very often by students or teachers and I would like to change this. So, here is a list of things I will be proposing to my community in hopes that they can raise 25% of the cost. The rest will hopefully be covered by Peace Corps sponsored grant money and any extra donations. There are two primary grants available to PCVs worldwide: the Volunteer Activity Support and Training (VAST) program and the Peace Corps Partnership Program.

Both are capable of generating funds upwards of $3,000-5,000 US dollars. When this money is generated, it will go to the following projects at the resources center:

Bartica Resource Centre

Needs Assessment and Budget Costs

1. More electricity wall outlets are needed so that things like fans, laptop computers, the data projector, and other electrical devices may be used in more than one place in the centre

2. A new paint job on walls, support columns, and book shelves is needed using vibrant colors and murals painted by the children of Bartica

3. Wheels are needed on some of the book shelves so that they may be easily moved around the room

4. Landscaping the exterior of the center is desired so that children have somewhere to play outside and teachers can play cooperative games with their classes

5. Building new book shelves would help those who are maintaining the centre keep books organized and displayed in a way that attracts students of various reading levels to grab a book and learn something new.

6. Building a cubby at the centre’s entrance is needed so that students have a place to store their shoes when using the library

7. Rugs are needed for the reading centre and the game centre so that students have a comfortable place to read or sit and put together puzzles

8. Bean-bag chairs and a couch are needed for students to have a comfortable place to read

9. A refrigerator is needed to store food for teachers and volunteers while working at the centre

10. A GT&T phone line and a DSL Internet connection is needed in order to increase the efficiency of communications and ease of access to information in the world wide web

11. Our storage cabinets need to be refurbished and reinforced as well as have new locks put in so that we can safely secure the valuable resources we provide for teachers and students

12. Funding is needed for the purchasing of computer hardware and software (i.e. “end computing”) and the maintenance of the computer we already have (i.e. cleaning solutions, dusting canisters, ink cartridges, paper, toner, replacing hardware that has failed or broken)

13. Something to attach photos and posters to the wall.

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