As some of you may know, I am in El Carmen de Viboral, Colombia volunteering in a foundation called Marina Orth Foundation. What are we doing? We try to give Colombian children an education that can compete with the education children receive in other parts of the world. We are working in public schools in Medellin and El Carmen de Viboral, as well as in an education park (Parque Educativo) in El Carmen de Viboral. Most of the schools are located in poor or rural areas. My job is in Parque Educativo, where I am giving free English classes to the inhabitants of El Carmen. We are working with all age groups and all kinds of people.
Colombia is changing. People have started opening their eyes for this beautiful country. Some international companies are already here, others are on their way. However, there is room for improvement in the education that children receive, especially when it comes to English and technology. This is where we come in. By having native English speakers and qualified teachers to teach the children English and technology, these children will be able to compete with everyone else for jobs in a country that's developing fast. The majority of people in Colombia live on minimum wage, which is about 230 dollars (1900 NOK) every month. This is not enough to live a normal family life. The majority of our students are in this category. This is probably why the students show such a hunger to learn, which is a great motivation for me and the rest of the people that are working hard to make the future of these kids better.
What I am asking of you, is to help us in this task. Help us give the children of Medellin and El Carmen de Viboral a fair chance, and to reach out to more schools in this area. We are still a small foundation.
Give whatever you can. Me and Marina Orth Foundation will be thankful for your support!
Andreas Miguel Mork Afseth
Marina Orth Foundation wrote -
The Marina Orth Foundation (FMO) is a US-registered 501(c)3 non-profit based in Medellin, Colombia committed to creating a replicable education model for disadvantaged students in Antioquia, Colombia. We believe that English, technology and leadership education are critical tools to complete in the globalized world. Through the Step by Step and Forward programs, FMO partners with public schools to provide laptops to students through the One Laptop per Child program; English and technology instruction by sending its Colombian employees to teach in the schools; and various leadership activities for students organized by international volunteers. Through the SparkTIC program, we offer free computer programming and other technology courses to young, unemployed Colombians in Medellin´s most vulnerable neighborhoods.
FMO, the passion project of founder and former Colombia Peace Corp. volunteer Maureen Orth, was founded in 2005 to support the Marina Orth School in Aguas Frias, a mountain neighborhood high above downtown Medellin. Since its start the organization has grown to unforeseeable proportions both in terms of reach and breadth of programming. The foundation currently supports seven schools through the Step by Step program, with immediate plans to expand into two more, in addition to the Forward and SparkTIC programs. Today, we provide a globally competitive education to over 6,000 students in eastern Antioquia.
Likewise, the number of volunteer fellowships offered by the foundation has grown rapidly, even within the last year: FMO hosted five volunteers in first semester of 2015, while it currently hosts nine.
Volunteers play critical roles for the success of FMO´s initiative, especially in the Step-by-Step program. Besides aiding the foundation´s English teachers in the classroom, volunteers organize after-school “clubs” for students, ranging in themes from art and sports, to cultural exploration and organic gardening. They also lead English classes for teachers and administrators at each school, as well as classes directed toward the community and personal tutoring and mentoring offered to the foundation’s scholarship students. They even chaperone offsite field trips, such as the annual spelling bee.
Our volunteers profoundly affect the lives of our students. Indirectly, volunteers support students´ entire school system by training teachers and offering classes to the community. Directly, they teach students new skills that they would otherwise not have access to. They engage students in new ways, inspiring them to love learning and to pursue their new skills. Perhaps most of all, volunteers offer students a window into a foreign culture, a link to another part of the world and a role model from outside their own communities.
One graduate of the Marina Orth School, currently a scholarship student studying systems engineering at Medellin´s Pontifical Bolivarian University, recalled his experience as a fifth grader with one of the first volunteers:
“He taught me a lot about English, providing me with a good base knowledge. But his influence was not limited to class. It went beyond the classroom, as a mentor and friend. He expanded my view of my life and the world, and made me curious.”
The talent and labor lent by volunteers is felt throughout the foundation in other ways, as well. Over the past year, volunteers have led the social media and marketing efforts of FMO; have designed Step-by-Step´s first internal evaluation system; and have led volunteer recruitment and coordination.
The Marina Orth Foundation not only does not charge its volunteers for expenses incurred during their stay, but even pays a monthly stipend for the cost of living, as well as organizing home stays with local families, if the volunteers choose.
Volunteers receive between $250 and $300 per monthly stipend. For a six month fellowship, the foundation invests up to $1,800 in each volunteer. This semester, the Marina Orth Foundation will invest over $15,000 in living expenses alone for its team of nine volunteers.
The foundation will continue to increase the number of volunteers it hosts. Each new school the foundation supports demands another volunteer to realize the foundation´s programs. The foundation hopes to rely on the expertise of volunteers to expand several administrative efforts, including marketing and course evaluation. The foundation is also currently seeking to add additional volunteers at one of its schools, where its two volunteers each offer 25 hours of weekly classroom instruction without satisfying community demand. The foundation simply needs more volunteers to realize its goals.
Those numbers do not include additional incidental expenses necessary for the volunteers´ work. $50 covers the cost of basic classroom supplies for ten of our volunteer´s students. $100 covers the costs of supplies for one club hosted by a volunteer. $500 purchases two XO computers for our students, a critical tool for all the initiatives within the Step-by-Step program.
As employees, volunteers and friends of the Marina Orth Foundation, we ask that you support the foundation by contributing to these volunteer efforts. Volunteers are a critical element in the Marina Orth Foundation´s mission to bring a globally competitive education to the students of Colombia. We need your support to ensure that FMO can continue to host its volunteers, even as the foundation continues to expand its programming and ambitions and the demand for volunteers continues to grow.