Great start, thank you everyone! :D
May 25, 2016
Below: About the foundation
As you may know, right now I am working as a volunteer for the Marina Orth Foundation in Medellín, Colombia. It has been a dream for me coming to Colombia as a volunteer and I’m really glad I actually found this possibility! Hopefully this isn’t my last time as a volunteer. I would like to tell you a little about what I do here.
I am working in three schools in a small village called El Carmen de Viboral. My mission here is to teach English to the students and the teachers of a few public schools as well as carrying out free English lessons for the students’ parents. It really feels like I’m making a difference here and the children are always happy to see me :) If you have ever visited Colombia, you may know how hard it can be for children from poorer families to get a good education and making a career. Over the past four months, I have worked hard to support the Marina Orth Foundation's goals to bring a globally competitive education to Colombian public schools.
I’m proud working for the Marina Orth Foundation and I feel privileged to work with such talented colleagues! We are all working hard to create a better future for the children of Medellín, Antioquia and Colombia. I have been impressed by the work the foundation is doing. There are a few projects running simultaneously, about which you can read on the foundation's homepage. We are focusing on working in vulnerable areas of Medellín with surrounding as for example Llanaditas, Aguas Frías and Caicedo. These schools are in great need of good teachers and good resources. It’s not unusual that my classes contain 30 to 40 students who neither have textbooks nor workbooks.
In addition to our English and technology instruction, we administer the One Lap Top per Child program, providing each student with a specially designed computer to use throughout the semester. The XO computers we provide generally represent the students' only access to a computer. By incorporating parents into the program so that parents and students together are responsible for the computers, the foundation builds new relationships between the school and parents. The computer also becomes a powerful new disciplinary tool in the classroom.
Every day I experience the positive effect we have on the students and the whole school community. And everyday I see the renewed passion for school that my corworkers, our foundation and I bring to our students. I also see how effectively the foundation is led and managed. Asking for your support is one more way I can help this organization that is doing such great work here in Medellin. Your money is going directly to the schools and projects we have and is going to make a great difference for the youth in our schools! Thank you!
Marina Orth Foundation wrote -
The Marina Orth Foundation (FMO) is a US-registered 501(c)3 non-profit based in Medellin, Colombia and 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. The SparkTIC program offers 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 new skills students 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.
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.