When I boarded my plane on January 14th earlier this year, I was excited, ready for a challenge, and extremely nervous for six months abroad in Colombia. I had never traveled alone before, never traveled for more than a week outside of the U.S., and my rusty level of Spanish was poor at best. But soon after I arrived in Medellin, Colombia, I met all of my colleagues from all over the world, and saw the beauty that Colombia has to offer, I knew it would be a great six months.
I have been living and working in El Carmen de Viboral, a small municipality one hour outside of Medellin. I grew up in a very small town and pretty soon after arriving, I felt right at ease transitioning back into small town life. This incredible foundation matched me with a local family who have provided me with a comfortable, relaxed, and loving home life at no expense to me. Living with a local family has truly been the best Spanish and culture lesson I have ever received.
I am working in three different schools in the area of El Carmen and it has been a challenge, but in the best possible way. The kids are extremely enthusiastic and curious here which makes my "job" here a lot easier. Even on the more difficult days of teaching art or working in the school garden, its not uncommon to receive a big hug and "Te quiero" from the kids here. And the kids are never too shy to correct my Spanish, which has made this learning process a two way street!
This has been an extremely positive experience, but also an incredibly eye opening experience in terms of the differences in education standards between Colombia and the schools in the United States. The children here don't have access to textbooks, materials for the classroom are sparse, and for the older kids they have to pay for their worksheets in order to participate in some classes. The gap that the foundation works to fill is a large one and one with many challenges. In addition to our English and technology instruction, the foundation has put into place the One Lap Top per Child program, providing each student with a specially designed computer to use throughout the semester with the ability to take it home, where often its the childrens first exposure to technology. In the past year, the foundation has added 17 new team members and has implemented a new program, Spark TIC, to educate and empower people in the community who neither work or study. With all of these new additions the foundation needs additional resources to continue growing and expanding. I am looking to give back to the foundation that has given me so much and which has given back to the communities in Medellin and El Carmen. All of the donations raised through this fundraising effort goes directly towards funding volunteers like myself for future semesters. I ask you now to consider supporting this foundation, with any amount, so that these programs can continue to provide the best resources and best people possible to teach the children of Colombia