Thursday, May 30, 2013

Last Days as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Belize

Wrapping up two remarkable years of the most transformative experience I have ever had is very difficult.  I’m excited to be counting down the days until I see my beloved family again, but saying goodbye to people I have become close to and finding closure with projects I have become attached to are taxing endeavors.  I’m not sleeping well these days.  My mind is racing around all the people I want to acknowledge with gifts, cards, hugs and tears, as well as my future plans to begin my new work almost as soon as I touch down on US soil with Teach for America.  In short, I’m trying to, but am having difficulty staying in the moment of each of these last days.

We wrapped up the Bella Vista Family Literacy Program with a party, cake, certificates, gifts of children’s books, and a visit from Nina Hernandez, our Peace Corps Country Director.  The Spanish-speaking mothers who I’ve come to have great affection for explained to Nina how they had learned in our sessions the importance of stimulating their children at home by reading aloud to them, conversing with them and preparing them for school.  They all completed the two year project with a little collection of about 15 books to read to their children, the importance of which they had not previously known.

Doña Gloria reads aloud to our Family Literacy group

Leaving Bella Vista for the last time

Our Pat the Great Cat Project (see blog entry from July, 2012) came to a close as well, at least the part that involved our Peace Corps Volunteer participation in teacher training.   Over the last 10 months our team of six Peace Corps Volunteer educators and the US Ambassador’s wife, Barbara Thummalapally, facilitated seven workshops in all six districts of Belize, working with over 400 teachers.  A team of documentary film makers began producing a video of our workshop sessions, and will continue editing for some months now before the final product of a training video is given to the Ministry of Education for future in-service training.  

Each Standard IV (5th grade) classroom in Belize has now received a teacher’s copy of Pat the Great Cat:  A Jaguar’s Journey and soon each school will receive a set of 30 hardcover copies for student use.  Hundreds of teachers throughout Belize are now creatively using this engaging text to support their lessons in wildlife conservation, social studies, math, expressive arts, science, health and language arts.  I am so proud to have been a part of this inspiring team of volunteers and will treasure all my memories of our travels together throughout Belize to bring literacy alive for Belize’s children and teachers.
Our Pat the Great Cat Team

The teachers develop lessons based on Pat the Great Cat and our training

Primary school children learn about rainforest conservation from Pat the Great Cat

Teachers in Corozal develop lessons integrating expressive arts with other areas of the curriculum

Our workshop in Punta Gorda

I also wrapped up my last days in the schools of Stann Creek District by saying goodbye to my favorite teachers and distributing all the children’s books and homemade educational materials I had accumulated for use in my workshops over the past two years.  I put together several files of digital documents of teaching strategies, power point presentations and learning materials, and gave them to teachers on their thumb drives.  I hope I have inspired at least a few teachers along the way!

Here are some shots of one of my favorite schools, Light of the Valley Primary School

Mrs. Logan, Infant I (Kindergarten) teacher
Ms. Villanueva, Infant II (First grade teacher)

Saying lots of goodbyes in my town of Dangriga:

My last GLOW club meeting with the girls

Aidra, Ingrid and Primrose with the GLOW girls

Saying "adios" to my favorite Honduran vegetable seller

The owner of "The Price is Right," my favorite Chinese supermarket

My landlady, Ms. Sandra, made me this beautiful bag as a going-away present.

Sad goodbyes to my best Belizean friend, Dez.

Aidra Rodriquez made me a lovely Garifuna doll as a going-away present

The famous Rodriguez sisters gave me one of their hand-made Garifuna drums to take as a souvenir of Dangriga.  I'm so honored!

So many goodbyes from the teachers, my colleagues from the Ministry of Education, my neighbors and friends in Dangriga, all the members of the Peace Corps staff in Belmopan and my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers.....we made it to the end of a 27 month journey.  I will carry the memories of this experience with me all the days of my life.