At the end of July, the Enlaces team hosted its very first summer camp. About 13 students ranging from 6 to 13 joined us for week of morning activities. Every morning, we began with “Good morning! How are you? I am fine. My name is Orlando. What’s your name?” We progressed through a variety of topics in our 40 minute English classes, covering basics like numbers, body parts and animals to more advanced issues like family trees and the water cycle. Maggie, a fantastic volunteer who arrived in early July, is focusing her English major and her energy on developing an ESL program in Tecuanipan. The summer camp was our first shot at designing an English class, and the whole experience shows a lot of potential. Incorporating multiple educational techniques like full-motor response, flashcards and art projects, Maggie got the kids excited about learning the language and even wound up with a few inquiries from parents and cousins eager to participate.
Aside from the English class, the focus of the camp was two-fold: self-respect and environmental awareness. We began on Monday with a number of team-building games, introduced to us by Jay, another volunteer. The kids had to figure out how to flip over a blanket while standing on it without anyone stepping off into the lava. They were eventually successful, and we sat down to discuss the challenges and the merits of communication and teamwork.
After a demonstration on water pollution, we had the kids wander down to the river to pick up trash on the riverbank. Together we hauled it back up a hill to make a recycle monster to guard our land.
On Tuesday, we tied the events of the first day in with the idea that anyone, no matter how small, can make a difference. Kiriku, an animated film based in West Africa, is the story of a newborn boy who uses the tools of his environment and youthful ambition to save his village from a witch. The kids enjoyed the movie and were able to draw connections between the actions that little Kiriku took and what they themselves could accomplish for Tecuanipan.
Wednesday was field trip #1. We loaded everyone up in the vans and brought them to the Cholula. The first stop was at the Enlaces home for English class on the water cycle to tie in the lessons from our first two days.
Then we trekked to the pyramid where we visited the museum and meandered around the ruins. Miguel gave an impressive presentation on how our Aztec predecessors used their environment to create an incredibly advanced civilization. We also discussed issues of water (or lack thereof) and how it contributed to the desertion of the site. The kids loved watching the Cholula flyers (the ritual performers who float to the ground by a cord from a tall platform near the pyramid) and climbing the steep steps that overlook the city.
Thursday was a hodgepodge kind of day. We played games and the kids built drums and shakers out of recycling for a concert for the moms. We gave the kids problem solving scenarios to act out in theatre: there is a flood and all of the clean water is mixed with the river’s black water; there is a drought and you have to find water; the water is being held hostage by one very wealthy man who wants to sell it to you – what do you do? Their responses were creative and enlightening – inviting us into the minds of hopeful children with floating tractors and simple hydroponics and honorable judicial systems. Take a look at the videos that we’ve posted for some clips of the theatre. In the afternoon they learned about cob and helped dance around in the mixture for the wall that we started building with Brophy and Creighton. Maricela, Rafa, Monse and Santiago enjoyed themselves so much that they actually came back the following week to help us make more cob (and to battle in mud wars with Jay).
Video of one of the theater performances: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFnPa-2a5zQ
Friday was the day EVERYONE was waiting for! The zooooo!
To show our gratitude for their consistent involvement, we invited six mothers to join us in the outing. Two Enlaces vans wound cautiously through the savannah of Africa, not-so-quietly watching the giraffes munch on the treetops and Ina’s husband Manuel attempt in vain to avoid an overly-friendly ostrich at the open window.
We reviewed the English words for animals and they yelled “Tiger!”, “Lion!” and “Elephants!” as we approached their respective homes. During the second half of the tour, we stretched our legs and hung out with the snakes, monkeys and butterflies within the park. The kids sat and watched a bird show, during which Manuel made friends with another ostrich. Then, as is custom with most camps and daycares, we gave the kids plenty of sugar and sent them home with their mothers.
The camp reinforced the bond that we are trying to create between the children of Tecuanipan and Enlaces. The field trips strengthened the trust within the community, and also allowed us to spend more time with the mothers of the children. We hope that when Alesandre and Luis Ángel went home to talk about the zoo, they also mentioned the cob and the compost toilet and the English classes. These are the building blocks of inspiring sustainable movements and community development. We would like to thank the Africam Zoo for allowing us to bring the kids – we all got in for free, some of whom would never have been able to take such an opportunity. This was personally one of the most enjoyable weeks of my time at Enlaces, and I hope that the families got as much out of it as the volunteers did.