We often hate to use clichés but, as it turns out, our time with the Peace Corps has been a good experience, and, moreover, it has come to end, so what better way of phrasing that than the tried and true. Ok, so you get the picture. Our two years with the Peace Corps have finally wrapped up and we´re enjoying some time in the States before heading to Nicaragua and Ecuador for one final hoorah before heading home in December to begin looking for work and then preparing for grad school (Emily). For those loyal few who´ve read a lot of what we´ve written over the past two years, thanks for your interest, and we hope this last entry will be an interesting way to end the saga.
Dan teaching a class of eigth graders
We wrapped up our time with the Peace Corps by teaching a great deal of both English and civic education courses. With regard to English, each of us was occupied between 4 and 5 nights a week teaching English to many motivated teens and young adults who are in the process of completing their 7th, 8th, and 9th grade educations respectively. At the end of the school year, after all of the exams were graded, projects returned, etc. we were treated to a “gran despedida”, or “great farewell party”, by our students at each of the two schools where we taught English. We received nice gifts, ranging from wood carvings, to ornate key holders, to a nice collared dress shirt. Naturally, the food we received was also quite scrumptious and we did nothing short of stuff ourselves on shish kabobs, rice, beans, tortillas, and two types of cake (one of which Emily had painstakingly prepared the night before, the other of which our students prepared for us). We hope that our students improved their ability to speak and write English, and above all else to better comprehend both written and spoken English. Regardless of our students individual aspirations, we´ve learned over the past two years that having some grasp on English is very advantageous to obtaining many of the more professional and lucrative jobs in the country. We were very proud of our student´s progress and dedication and we wish them all the best!
Emily with her students at La Gran Despedida
Our second year of civic education via what is known as Project Citizen was a wonderful experience, and arguably one of our proudest achievements during our two years in Honduras. Do you want to know the best part? We became more and more expendable as time went on and as our counterpart – already a fantastic local civics teacher – developed more confidence with her ability to teach the program. So, for a quick explanation of what´s involved in Project Citizen, let us phrase it this way: Project Citizen is a program designed to teach students the philosophy behind community development while also providing them with multiple tools to enhance their individual and collective capacity to be local change agents. Hmm, there must be a less, how to put it, stuffy rhetoric to describe Project Citizen. More than anything, it´s intended to get kids involved in changing their community for the better by identifying problems via community surveys and then conducting legitimate research to help propose viable solutions to those problems. We were thrilled by the problems our students chose to address (excessive vehicle speed on a road adjacent to their school, problems with the functioning and location of localcanteens , the need for a bridge to span a creek that often becomes an impassable river for students and other residents during the rainy season, improving public lighting in the neighborhood, and improving a local soccer field), and, moreover, by their success in proposing creative and convincing solutions for dealing with those problems. Our counterpart teacher at the school plans to create a conference in our town to teach other area civics teachers the fundamentals of Project Citizen, so as to pay it forward. With these students we were again treated to a very nice despedida, but this time we only had to worry about cake. Phew!
Our students outlining the need for new traffic safety measures
The many generous people who donated books to our book drive will be pleased to know that dozens of kindergarteners and school aged kids have already enjoyed many of the wonderful stories you´ve sent their way. Several kids have even developed favorites and have taken to asking their teacher or librarian to read them the story once again. In total, books were donated to four locations (one kindergarten, one elementary school, one small-scale community library, and one other traditional school covering from first through ninth grades). Three of those locations have already begun to use the books – two of them very extensively – and the fourth location has plans to make the books accessible to students in the very near future once they´ve constructed shelving to house them all. It has been truly inspiring to see the children excitedly opening the books and to hear stories from their teachers about how much enthusiasm they´ve shown towards reading. To the many of you who donated to our book drive, thanks once more for all of your generosity! It will undoubtedly pay dividends for the years and decades to come.
As you´ve seen woven into the few paragraphs written above, we said a lot of goodbyes as we prepared to leave Honduras. Certainly there were rough patches in our service, but such is life. At the end of the day we´re quite pleased to have volunteered with the Peace Corps, not so much for the positive impact we´ve made in the lives of others, but rather for the experience as a whole, which has been one of teaching and learning, speaking and listening, becoming better acquainted with our town and the country as a whole, and ultimately learning to be more empathetic with regard to the challenges many Hondurans face when trying to make a better life for themselves, their families, and their country as a whole. We hope to keep in touch with the friends who most inspired us to see what they achieve as time goes on. That´s it. İAdios Peace Corps and adios Honduras!
Enjoying our local outdoor market, from which we bought most of our produce