Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The After School Club

Nakine holding up his composition after the writing session.

As one of the Grow Well initiatives, Grow Well wanted to provide more activities geared towards youth in the community of Gros Islet.  Extra curricular activities help to give these youth something to do other than just to roam the streets.  The less time that the kids hand out on the streets, the more time they can possibly spend developing into their full potential.  

Game day at ASC....

My work here includes, but is not limited to, helping my community counterparts in Gros Islet to fulfill the initiatives brought forth.  Because of this initiative, I started organizing what is now known as the Grow Well After School Club, or the ASC for GI.  This program is at the base level currently, of course, but I see it taking form as the weeks go on.  

When I would hang out a little bit longer after co-teaching at the CARE school during the day, I noticed that there were kids that would gravitate towards the centre.  This was a great thing.  However, they needed a little bit of focus and discipline in order to make it a positive thing.  Thus, the ASC!!  

Some of the girls during Game Day Session.

The first two Wednesdays was merely getting the kids to come in, take a consent and information form, and learn how to sign in.  The kids were a little resistant to signing in and out at first, but now most of them ask for the sign in book.  Progress is slow, but certain.  After the first two sessions, we moved into working on creative art projects.  Luckily, I was given some very quality stencils from Judy Joyce, a volunteer in Dominica.  We used the stencils to draw and color.  The youth seemed very keen on being into the arts.  The only thing with the arts sessions is that they can be a little messy!  

After spending a few weeks completing the arts sessions, we moved on to creating "makeshift" drums.  During my months here, I have been collecting various materials that can be used in arts and crafts.  We took plastic and metal jars, bottles, and cylinders to create drums.  First, they were assigned the task of decorating the drum bases.  This took the entirety of one session.  The second session was devoted to designing the top of their drums, and the third to playing their creations.  

Though not all of them were able to make it to the session in which we played the drums, the kids that were able to make it learned a little bit about sound and design.  They got to not only test out the drums that we all made, but they also got to hear the difference in sound.  They realized that the size and material of the drum does make a difference in the pitch and tone of the sound that is produced.  This is very basic knowledge for music, but it can make all the difference in exposure.  Sometimes, the exposure of just getting the opportunity to have fun with music can encourage a youth to get involved in the music world.  Hopefully, these kids will have the curiousity to get involved in music later on in their lives.  

The session after the drums was a "game day".  We spent most of the time playing board games in small groups to emphasize teamwork and patience.  My mother always played board games with me when I was a child, and for this I am grateful.  It really taught me how to work together with other people and be patient for my turn.  Though it does not seem like much to teach kids how to play board games, it really can instill good virtues in them sometimes.  

      Composition Day 2 at the ASC.

The past two sessions have been writing a composition.  I am corresponding with an after school centre now in California, Irvine.  I thought that it would be good for the kids to write a letter to the centre telling them a little bit about themselves and describing St. Lucia.  In order to encourage them to do a little more work after spending the whole day at school, I baked some "snacky cakes".  Whoever worked hard and really put some effort into their composition earned a snacky cake.  

The second session was devoted to finishing the compositions and taking individual pictures to send with the letters.  I am going to put the pictures together in a collage of sorts before I send them with the letters.  

So far, I have really only planned two weeks ahead of the actual sessions.  Right now we are testing out what works and what doesn't with the kids so that when we put together a comprehensive program for the ministry to look at we will have a basis of interest for the community.  I have been lucky in trying to find volunteers for the club as well.  Though, I am still working hard on finding local parents, teachers and community members to take the place of the "6 monthers".  It is incredibly difficult to get parents to help out in their spare time here.  Finding local community members to be the ones running the club is going to be very difficult, but I am going to work on finding these people throughout the two years!  It is a good resource for the kids, and it really gets them to spend some quality time being creative and to start thinking outside of the box.  

A visit is like a "now and later"

If I had unlimited funding, I just may import you all.....

The longer that I stay here, the harder I find it to blog about my experiences.  Things are becoming less new to me, so I do not feel the need to write about them.  Also, I am getting settled into the life here.  I am becoming busy, busy, busy!  When I am not busy, the last thing that I really want to do is to sit down at a computer for a couple of hours to find something to write about.  

Recently, I was lucky enough to have a visitor from the States.  Brian was the last person that I thought would visit me first.  That sentence sounds a little confusing, eh?  However, although I had imagined that he would come to visit me, I never believed that he would be the first person to come.  I am so lucky!  

We had a good time when he was here.  I don't feel like I got to show him all that I wanted to show to him though!  I was tired a lot of the time.  Luckily I didn't have to work as much as I thought I was going to have to, but I was exhausted from the week prior.  

I got to pick him up from the airport in Vieux Fort.  I have never been on a shorter bus ride my entire time in St. Lucia!!!!  It felt like a matter of minutes coming back from the airport because we had so much to talk about.  

The first full day that Brian was here, I took him to Gros Islet.  I had to work for part of the day, so I had him help me out with the After School Club.  The After School Club is offered to 27 registered kids ranging from 5-18 years of age.  I will discuss more about it in the next couple of posts.  Anyhow, I had Brian help out with "drum day".  We made drums from makeshift materials.  Unfortunately, there was a funeral outside the day that we were supposed to play them, so we had to wait until the following week to play them.  

Brian playing the drums during the ASC with Tariq.

So instead, we played games and the girls all braided Brian's hair!  It was quite the riot.  The kids LOVED him...they were jumping on him nonstop and would not let him go!

This is a pic of Brian with some of the kids from 
the "ASC"  After School Club in Gros Islet.  

This is me and Brian on the third attempt up 
to Pigeon Point.  Yes, it was successful, but 
very windy!

We got to go to Pigeon Point three times.  No, it was not because he liked it so much the first time!  It was because it had rained the first two times that we got up there.  Literally, it had been sunny and clear and the minute we stepped inside of the park, it started pouring down rain!  We waited for it to clear up those two times, but alas, it did not.  So what did we do but shelter in the local pub!  It is quickly becoming one of my favorite places in St. Lucia.  This bar is so quaint and perfect.  The walls are stone and it feels like you are in a little cave.  They allow cats to roam around freely and even to sit atop the bar.  That's my kind of place!  

This picture Brian took without me knowing there 
was a "toilets" sign above my head outside of the 
Pub.  He is funny, isn't he???

Perhaps one of my favorite parts of his visit was the Peace Corps Work Day in Laborie.  We worked with some of the other Peace Corps Volunteers to help turn soil, build a dam, and a few other things.  It was a great experience for myself and Brian.  That was certainly the first time that I have ever built a dam, let alone turned soil!  When I imagined myself coming to the Peace Corps, I definitely had more of this type of work in mind.  I love to keep myself busy doing laborous outdoor work like this.  It can be much more satisfying than the "desk work" that I sometimes have to do.  

Me and Jeff beginning the dam.  There was nothing 
there but water and rocks!

Turning the soil and weeding during the PC 
work day.  Hot sun and hard work.

Building the dam.  It took form after a little
hard work!

Anyhow, I helped to build a dam; Brian helped to weed and turn soil.  Luckily, his hair helped to shade his head from the sun.  He would have been burnt to a toast!  We had a great lunch of coconut "secret ingredient" rice after the work.  The ingredient turned out to be basil.  YUMMMY.  That was some of the best coconut water I have had since being in St. Lucia as well.  

After the work day, we went to Klu's to get chicken and bakes.  My, oh, my, was that satisfying as well.  A few beers and a few good chicken n' bakes....well worth the work!

I asked Jeff to invite us all again for another work day like that.  I would get "down and dirty" anytime!  

Did I mention I had to wash my tennis shoes three times to get the smell from the creek water out of my shoes????  Again, well worth it.  We also tried to make our way up Gros Piton.  However, we did not make it there until about 2:30 (to the trail head), so we only got to hike half way up due to potential darkness.  

Brian and I half way up Gros Islet.  His hair is 
covering up the gorgeous view of Petit Piton.

Aside from the work day and Gros Piton, I spent a little bit of time introducing Brian to Gros Islet, my work community.  On Friday night we got the chance to go to the "Jump Up".  The jump up is a street party out in the middle of the road that goes from about 7 to 3 am.  It is always a ton of fun!  It is even better when you know more people from the community.  For me, the longer I am here, the better it gets because I get to know a few new people every Friday.  This is a great way for me to meet people in my own community.  People tend to be a little more relaxed on Fridays, and then when I see them during the week in the community they are thrilled!  

We also went to the Castries market to do a little shopping for Brian's friends and family.  That was the first time that I spent a little bit of time in the market.  It is interesting to see how people react to two white people walking about in the market.  

During the week, if I am in Castries, most people will recognize me and at least not ask me if I want a tour of the island anymore.  However, when you are with a new white friend, well, that's all fair game to ask.  Sometimes I find myself playing along with them...."Oh, yes, I do need a tour....How much?  Oh, I got a better price from that guy.....oh, you are going to lower it?.....Hmmm....well, I want to go, but I don't have any money right now......oh, you'll accompany me to the bank while I get money?......Okay, well I have some other errands to do....wait here and I will come back and get you....."  Ha.  Well, sometimes it is more exhausting to say, "I'm not a tourist, I live here" and to explain what I am doing here and for how long I have lived here.  

Overall, it was really nice to have a best friend in town for a little while.  It was a different feeling; combining my old life with my new life.  Sometimes I would get a little confused...but generally, I loved it.  It felt good at times to remember things from Seattle, but at the same time, it also made me miss Seattle a little bit.  However, by having him in town, I automatically realized it was not Seattle that I was missing so much as the few people in my life that I just don't want to live without.  As nice as Seattle is, I can live in another place and be completely happy.  In fact, I just might do that after I get done here.