A month in Cofradia

I arrived in Cofradia with zero teaching experience and really had no idea how I’d get on. I was anxious and excited to get stuck in. Circumstances outside of anyone’s control meant the Volunteer Coordinator wasn’t able to go through the usual teacher training with me in a structured way, and consequently I was thrown in the deep end on day one with three classes!

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Predictably, I found my first classes particularly challenging. I was learning so much – the range of ability in my class, which lesson formats worked, how much time exercises would take, how best to lesson plan, not to mention the admin and disciplinary aspects – and I’d find I was knackered by the evening! But this is exactly how it should be. I came here hoping to put myself out of my comfort zone and challenge myself.

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Since then every class has been better than the last. You build relationships with the kids, you learn which of them need more help and you try to tailor your teaching so that everyone gets something out of it – and if you persevere in what can sometimes be a chaotic environment you will occasionally feel you’ve genuinely imparted knowledge!

I’m so glad I did this, and I feel confident that the benefit to the kids from my classes will definitely have outweighed any potential difficulties resulting from a shorter-than-ideal spell as their teacher.

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I think I’ll stay.

It’s like that reoccurring nightmare that everybody has after leaving primary school: you’re standing in front of the class, but you forgot your pants. Teaching English to first graders feels a bit like this, but instead of pants, you’ve forgotten your sanity. 32 pairs of eyes stare up at you like you’ve lost your mind. You’re babbling on and on about sharing and listening, about the water cycle and prepositions of place…

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You don’t notice the progress at first. “There’s no way that I am making a difference,” you start to think. “I’m too small, and the mountain is too high. There’s just no way.” But then it starts happening: a boy sprints up from the far corner of the classroom, weaving through floral-printed backpacks and deftly dodging his own untied shoelaces, and shouts “Miss! I am…sick!” You’re suddenly comforting said student, ignoring the fact that today’s lunch has just made an encore outside the classroom by thinking about the ginormous, immense amount of pride you feel for his use of English in a moment of such pure panic.

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Later on, another student comes up to you holding a pack of cookies and calmly asks “Open please,” fistful of Oreo wrapper crinkling. You open the cookies for your tiny English geniuses. And maybe, if you’re lucky, the tiny geniuses decide to share.

The girls are doing cartwheels and perfecting their skips, desperately pleading for a photo shoot. “Miss, please! One more photo! One more!” When you scroll through the endless photos you’ve taken, the little gymnasts peering over your shoulders declare triumphantly, “Very good, Miss.” And you definitely feel just that: very, very, good.

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The more we learn together, the closer we become. The more words we can use, the more things we can talk about – from robots to unicorns, from Paw Patrol to Peppa Pig. Every raging noise-induced headache is nothing compared to the immense happiness they fill me with every day. I couldn’t be more proud of them for all that they have learned, and couldn’t be more grateful for all they have taught me.

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“Ser maestra es cuando te das cuenta de que toda la vida serás estudiante.”

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One month here is not enough

As a primary school teacher from England, it had always been a dream of mine to travel abroad and experience teaching in different countries. However, as someone who never travels alone and definitely prefers the company of friends and home comforts, it was something I never thought to consider. A few things changed for me in 2017 though and a reality check that life is short and we should embrace challenges, new experiences and the big exciting world out there hit home.

Fast forward to now, February 2019. I quit my teaching job in London, travelled and taught in SE Asia, and am firmly into my journey of Central America. One of the teaching opportunities I have had in Central America has been in Cofradia, Honduras. When I discovered this volunteer position on workaway my first thoughts were, “Honduras. Scary. No way.” But after some research and a call with Andy, the volunteer coordinator, my mind was put at ease. Yes, there was a need to be cautious and yes the gang situation in areas of Honduras is bad, but Cofradia was completely safe. I have felt not only completely at home here but that I am also experiencing a slice of something really special. The best bit…the children. The children at CBS are incredible! They have a zest for life, happy spirits and kind hearts. Children love coming to school here and love learning, especially English. They recognise how important this education is for them to have a future which isn’t ridden with danger and violence.

The English being taught here is fully dependent on volunteers, these are the teachers unlocking a brighter future for the children. They are essential. I spent my time here for a month mainly working as a resource teacher. This allowed me to work intensely with select pupils and groups that are falling behind academically or have behavioural needs. This was a deeply rewarding experience for me, especially because being a class teacher of 30 means that having consistent daily 1:1 with struggling children doesn’t happen as often as it should. I had two particularly memorable experiences with specific children during my time at CBS. The first was with a girl from 3rd grade who when I met her was unable to read. After 4 weeks of daily 1:1 tutoring she read me a story. It was a short and basic story, but she was able to read it! It was so special seeing her face of pure delight and amazement, she couldn’t believe she could do it, but she did. The other was a boy in 5th grade who was disruptive in class and struggled to focus. Working with him over the weeks and see his confidence improve, his pride in his work increase and his self belief in English grow was an incredible feeling.

One month here is not enough. You very quickly settle into the happy and simple way of life. You are welcomed into the volunteer and school family immediately. Even the layers of dust and the cold bucket showers wouldn’t put me off staying. Sadly, my teaching journey must continue but the CBS team, the children and the special spirit of Cofradia will stay with me. Embracing challenges, new experiences and the big exciting world is something that is definitely achieved here.

My heart has been so full ever since I arrived here

After graduating from university, I found myself starting to wonder what my next steps would be in terms of working towards my career and completing further schooling. I noticed that I wasn’t as happy as I wanted to be or as happy as I knew I could be, due to my fear of the unknown. Being somebody who hasn’t done much travelling before (apart from staying at various resorts with friends or family), taking the risk to come to Honduras to teach English was a huge deal for me. It is safe to say I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. I remember I said to my mom as we were leaving for the airport, ‘I think I’m making a huge mistake, I don’t think I can do this.’ Little did I know that this ‘huge mistake’ I thought I was making would turn out to be hands down the best decision I’ve ever made.42787668_1080703088772168_1519098596513808384_n
My first day was a bit of a blur, I remember feeling completely overwhelmed and extremely nervous. However, as soon as I met those amazing children in Kinder everything changed. I felt myself bond instantly with them, which caused my uneasiness to vanish. I noticed that only having two hours of class a day with them did not feel like enough, I felt myself missing them by the end of the day and constantly looking forward to seeing them the following morning. Having only originally planned to stay until the end of the school year and not come back, I found myself thinking about how tough it would be to say goodbye to them for good in June. It took me less than one week here in Honduras to decide I would be returning for the next school year. Not only was it the best decision I’ve ever made, but it was the easiest one too.

             Life in Cofradia is beautiful. Whether it’s getting crepes at the cafe with friends, visiting students’ houses    and spending time with their families, or going swimming at the local swimming pool (Las Rocas), there is always something fun to do. The moto rides (small little taxis), cute thrift stores, movie theatres, and amazing restaurants make life here so interesting. In addition, travelling around to various parts of Honduras has immensely added to my amazing life here as well, whether it is beach trips to Tela or getaways to the tropical island of Utila, these trips have given me memories I will cherish for a long time.

I would HIGHLY recommend coming to teach at CBS. As I said before, stepping out of my comfort zone and choosing to live here in Cofradia was the best decision I’ve ever made! I have never been an overly emotional person but I can honestly say that my heart has been so full ever since I arrived here. I have received so much love and support from students, their families, andthe volunteers I have also reciprocated so much love, more than I knew I was ever capable of.

Thanks for reading, I hope I get to meet you soon!!

– Miss Jess, Kindergarten and Prepatoria Teacher

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To the students, thank you for teaching me more than I could have ever imagined.


At the age of 19 I never expected myself to be doing anything other than being in university. I had always planned to graduate from high school, go to post-secondary, graduate, and get a job. But, as most people will tell you, life generally doesn’t work out how you plan it, and I am eternally grateful for that. Previously I had done some volunteering and travelling, but only being 18, never had done any on my own. So, after being offered a position, I was terrified. I came to the conclusion that it was ultimately an opportunity I would regret not taking. So, I quit my job, booked my flights and started preparing to pack up my life and move to Honduras.

I was only supposed to stay for 2 and 1/2 months and within the first week, my new friends were already trying to convince me to stay longer. At the time, I thought they were crazy, and couldn’t picture myself away from home for that long. But what I didn’t realize is that I was creating a second home in Cofradia. I was there from August-November and (even though I wouldn’t admit it at the time) decided 3 weeks into my trip that I wanted to stay. Unfortunately, I ended up having to postpone my trip. But luckily, I was able to come down for the past 10 days to visit.

I have never felt so truly blessed to be leaving a place. Although it breaks my heart to think that I won’t be able to see my incredibly cute, sweet, caring, hilarious, and extremely intelligent 29 Grade 3 students every day, along with their amazing families, the most hospitable staff at CBS, and of course my best friends, I remind myself just how lucky I am to have had all these people enter my life.

To the students, thank you for teaching me more than I could have ever imagined. You are truly the most amazing kids I’ve had the pleasure to meet. Not only my students, but every one of the students at CBS are incredibly considerate and always shocking me with how big their hearts are. Every single one of these students are so incredible in their own way, and each one has so much potential to do such amazing things with their futures, and I have no doubt that they will. I am so glad that I got the opportunity to meet them and be a part of their lives, even just for a short while. To my friends, thank you. Thank you for being a shoulder to cry on, for just listening when I needed to vent, for making me laugh when laughter was the farthest thing on mind, and for truly becoming my family. Even though we were kind of forced to be together every day, I couldn’t have asked for better people to spend this part of my life with. I know that even though I’m leaving, I will see all of you again, and that you will never not be a part of my life.

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I came to Honduras with the intention to teach kids English, and to learn more about myself and what I wanted to do with my life. But, to say this country has given me so much more, is a massive understatement. Thank you to all the people who welcomed me into their school, homes and lives and showed me the incredibly beautiful side of Honduras that most people don’t see. Although I am saying goodbye for now, it is not forever. I will be back, because Honduras has become my second home. Thank you CBS, thank you Cofradia, thank you Honduras.

I will always be grateful to have taught for CBS, to have met the future leaders of Honduras.

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Before teaching in Honduras, my life’s most recent adventure was travelling in Asia.
Since 2014, I made an accord to visit one foreign country per year so I visited
Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar for a month. When I was there, what do
you know, I got lost. As humans, finding one’s own way is life’s greatest challenge-
try doing it in Vietnamese or Burmese. I can confidently say I spoke neither although
determination is a universal language. So is drive, and now I’m in Honduras.
I didn’t drive to Honduras; I flew economy. But the drive to create social change
brought me here, or at least it used to. Now, my motivation to succeed as a teacher
comes from my students. 29 to be exact, each and every single one of them inspire
me in and out of class. Like with lenity, my kids know how to share. I’ve seen them
stand in unison to help someone in trouble.

Moments like this is why I enjoy what I do, moments of beauty – in their ability to
surpass expectations or the strength they lend me. Volunteering in Honduras is not
easy; it’s like RuPaul’s Drag Race. There are lots of mini challenges but the maxi
challenge is to be a great teacher. Or more of a mentor – I wanted to set a great
example. Their parents sacrifice so much, I want their children to have the best.
Should I “set fire to the rain,” it’s because of my kids.

Should I continue to impact global change, it’s because of my students. So much of
my devotion for social work has a lot to do with them – in their ability to inspire
lives. If it were all up to me, I would all forge their future. I will always be grateful to
have taught for CBS, to have met the future leaders of Honduras.

I want them to flourish.

28641565_1610533522346212_1342437246_oI was never going to be a teacher. Never. I have always enjoyed learning and have always been great in class, but voluntarily putting myself in a classroom where I had to have control over 20+ kids was never my plan. Both of my parents worked as teachers while I grew up and I was fully aware of the cons of the profession. The hard work, complaining from parents, and the piles of paperwork that had to be done after any incident. However, here, it is nothing like that. Here I am greeted with smiles when I enter the class and pure gratification when I have the opportunity of talking to the parents. Here, I am not questioned nor mis- believed if there has been an incident,  and for some reason, everyone believes in my teaching skills.
         In Sweden we take much for granted. You will most likely not encounter a student in high school that feels grateful for the teachers work and effort or that it challenges you (in a good way that is). However, I want to believe that I was one of those students that sought clarification from my teachers and that they found that uplifting. I asked many questions and did not accept an answer saying ‘’because that is the way it is’’ or ‘’you don’t need to know that’’. I performed well and felt like those years in elementary school gave me a broad general knowledge, and as a human I think I turned out quite decent. That was only two years ago, but it feels like previous life.  

 

          I try to use my age in  a positive way and what I lack in teaching experience I try to make up for by using my learning experiences. I try to teach the way I wish I would have been taught, with the risk of possibly over explaining and putting the bars too high. I want my classes to be stimulating and challenging both for me and my students. I want them to have their questions answered and wishes fulfilled (with the exception of baseball Fridays).  When I see the same look in their eyes that I know that I had,  I feel like I am getting somewhere. That is after all what I came here to do, inspire them to learn, expose their curious selves and hopefully get them to develop a passion for learning. I want them to  flourish. I came here to give these kids the possibility of a better future,  and sure I could just keep introducing them to new topics and information but truth is, they will probably not remember more than 10% of what I teach them anyways. However, if I can give them a new way of looking at things, broaden their horizons and influence their values, I hope I can leave this amazing place with a feeling of fulfillment and serenity. Something I have been looking for the last couple of years.
          I have had the urge to go here for a long time, Central America had always seemed tempting. A vacation would not be enough, I wanted to completely indulge in the culture. That was when I found the website Workaway. Absolutely brilliant. I had already learned enough Spanish during my eight months is Spain and the timing couldn’t be better. I found CBS and a few other schools that I applied to, mostly in in Honduras, since after doing some research had decided that this was the place to be if I really wanted to make a difference. Am I happy this is where I ended up? Yes, I honestly don’t believe I could have found a program that fit me better. That I on top of it all got my own class made things even better, harder, but definitely more fulfilling.
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       My fourth graders keeps surprising and disappointing me, it is a constant struggle. Keeping 23 ten year olds in check is difficult and tiring, and during certain circumstances, impossible. However after 6 weeks I can see the results of my implemented effort. Now is where the fun begins. Now I can start seeing the fruits of my labour. As I am writing this I recently came out of a science class with my kids. I gave them a 50 minutes lecture on the rainforest. Not one complaint, NOT EVEN ONE. I was amazed, I asked them what their favourite subject was and 90% of them answered science,  ‘’Because in science we learn about the things around us’’. On top of that they yelled with happiness when I gave them a worksheet and one of the girls approached me at the desk, she gave me a hug  and said ‘’You are so good today Miss’’. Short and concise (Yes, I will work on teaching them superlatives). No, not all of my days are like this, not even close, but that feeling will keep me going for another few days, until the next highlight arrives and blows me away.

Yes, this is the right place for now.

Greetings. I am Tim Prewitt, from Corbin, Kentucky. A year ago, I was counting down the days I had left at my office job in the United States, before setting out for literally God knows where. These days I teach 4th grade and 9th grade English classes at Cofradia’s Bilingual School. I trust I’m in the right place for now.

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I find myself at CBS for a variety of reasons. First, I wanted to know Central America. As the calling to see and experience this part of the globe steadily increased within me over the past few years, I came to realize that a one-week vacation or two wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted to really spend some time here. To be precise, I hoped to connect and to really engage in the community wherever I was placed. I had other aspirations, too – such as trying my hand at something different than my construction management career, practicing my Spanish, working with youth, and living with others again, since I had been living alone for quite some time. As I searched online for a place that fit those parameters, CBS stood out. Once I made contact with the volunteer coordinator and applied and interviewed, I had complete faith that this was where I was being led for now.

I’ve been here for 3 months and it has been a very diverse experience. I felt led here in the first place, so I had to follow that urging. There is peace in that. But I must admit I’ve forgotten that detail a few times since arriving here, too. This is not always an easy place to be. There are a lot of highs and lows here. There are joys and frustrations; delights and disappointments. But when I look back on the reasons I had for coming here, I have certainly gotten what I came for. I have seen and experienced authentic Central America. Regarding community, I have had countless conversations with new friends and strangers alike. People have time for each other here. Also, I’ve seen the inside of more homes here in 3 months than I had in the past 2 years or so in the U.S. Some of the conditions here are a challenge, to be sure, but I’m growing as a result. The fruits of the spirit are always in season here. If I ever become a parent, I’ll be better equipped after this experience. That brings me to the kids at school. They impress me so much, with their eternal optimism and their honesty, generosity, and the way they look out for each other – not to mention their English abilities! As volunteers here, we get paid in hugs and smiles and laughs, but every day is payday in those currencies.

So here I am, taking things a day at a time – often one small blessing at a time. I’m grateful for each “Meester Tim!!!” that gets yelled my way and each time a student comes up for a handshake or a hug. That fills my cup. I smile even as I write about it. I’m here to teach, but also to learn. I’m thankful for the things I am learning here. I’ve worked with 3 different grades now, and the common thread between them all is the students’ caring for each other and their contentment with small things. It’s nice to see that. I’m rediscovering how simple life can be, and I certainly feel more alive than I did behind that desk and computer a year ago. Yes, this is the right place for now.

I found myself incredibly homesick, but to my surprise, not homesick for Australia.

So, I get the pleasure of telling you all about the last 4 months of my life….here goes!

If you had of asked me in July when I finished my semester of uni what I thought I’d be doing for the rest of the year, never once would I have said teaching 2nd grade in Honduras! One of my best friends had been in Cofradia for a few years, and every time we’d skype she’d tell me about all the incredible things they’d been doing, or just about the craziness that is Honduras. I’m not usually one to make rash decisions, but something about going to Honduras just seemed to fit in my head after one of our skypes, and after hardly any thought on the matter, I messaged Dana and said I’m coming! Before I knew it I had deferred my uni for a year and started saving like crazy!

I’ll just put this out there, geography was never my strongest points, but when I made the decision to come to Honduras, I actually had no idea where it was. I knew nothing about the country except for the fact that my friend was there, and there was a class that needed a teacher. I decided to keep it that way, because I was excited for the adventure and surprise that lay ahead. Never could I have imagined the beauty and the kindness this country had to offer, and the amazing people that were about to enter my life.

My first few days were a bit rough! After 36 hours in transit (didn’t need a map at that point to realise it was a bloody long way away), I arrived in San Pedro Sula without any bags, and experienced my first dose of Honduran humidity. I also experienced my first day without running water, along with no power. I went to school the next day to meet my class, after 3 days of no showers, no clean clothes and looking like an absolute mess. But thankfully to these 7 year olds that stuff didn’t really matter, as long as you give them lots of hugs and smiles then you’re in their good books.

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But unfortunately, learning English isn’t all about hugs and smiles. And I definitely learnt this the hard way (as we all do) in the first few weeks where I was so incredibly overwhelmed with 30 kids, whose first language was not that of my own, and who all needed my attention….all at the same time! But again, as we all do, I managed to find my feet with the help of my incredible work mates, who are now my best mates, which without I would’ve been an inconsolable mess by the end of my first week.

My kids……well, where to even begin! Each day I get to see these amazing little humans learn confidence in themselves, that they can learn anything they allow themselves to, and that are capable of so much. These kids amaze me every single day, and I don’t think I could ever explain to someone how much love I have for them. The fact that even thinking about this right now as I write my blog has brought me to tears (the ugly kind), I know that leaving them in June is going to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But I know they’re going to become incredible people, and being able to have had them, and all the kids at CBS in my life is something I’m so grateful for.

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For the Christmas holidays, most of the volunteers went home, but unfortunately Australia is a bit of a trek, so I decided to travel though a bit of Central America. After 4 weeks of traveling, I found myself incredibly homesick, but to my surprise, not homesick for Australia. I was homesick for Honduras, for the morning greeting by Don Chepe (our school guard), for the baleada lady who calls me “mi amor”, for Quique at the Pupusaria who is just a downright legend, and for all the amazing people who have become such a huge part of my life. That’s not to say that I don’t miss my life back in Australia, I always long to see my family, to hug them and know they’re ok, but I know that my life here is where I need to be for the time being, and they fact they are all so supportive is something I am so thankful for every day.

To sum it up, it’s been the most amazing rash decision I’ve ever made. My life has completely changed, and I have no idea how I’m going to be able to say goodbye to this incredible country and the amazing people in it come June! But for now, I’m going to enjoy my life here, continue to speak my terrible aussie bogan attempt at Spanish, eat as may baleadas as my heart desires, and make even more life long memories!

Miss Sophia

 

I want them to be as happy as they can possibly be, because that’s what they have given me.

Choosing to write a blog post about my experience at CBS is a daunting task, which is ironic for a ninth grade teacher who dishes out writing assignments to her class basically every week. However, I’ll give it a go and try my absolute best to convey just how precious CBS is to me.

At 19 years old I found myself in a position that I, strangely, never thought would come: I was finally finished college (or as we call it here in Montreal, cegep). I’m a relatively bright kid and I very much enjoy learning but for some strange reason the idea of eventually graduating seemed like an elusive detail of my life that someone else had scripted for me; I just stuck to one page at a time, never really giving much thought to the following chapters. Perhaps a funny or maybe even precarious way to live, but it’s just the way I go.

After having worked a while, my best friend and I decided to backpack through Honduras. Along the way, I met two very friendly people at a hostel. I had no idea that in a few months Andy and Dana would become my roommates, teammates and friends. Dana told me about a school she was volunteering at in Cofradia and everything she said about her involvement there resonated with me so deeply. Like myself, she was done with school for the meantime and was looking for something more (that means something totally different for everyone I suppose, but in a lot of ways I think it kind of means the same). Dana wrote me a letter with her coordinates and a few weeks later, I was back in Montreal.

Sometimes life gets a little stagnant. Personally, I was getting tired of the same monotonous routine and I felt like there was more that I could be doing with my time and my potential (everyone has it!!!) I remembered an opportunity I had been presented with a few months earlier in Honduras, and with this, I ran.

It never seemed that my departure from Montreal would be real until the night before I left. I felt anxious that I had made a big mistake. I was very sad to be leaving all the monotonous, mundane things that, up until very recently, I so eagerly wanted to get away from… go figure. My friends and family urged me to be brave, reassured me of my decision and the next day I was in a truck with Dana, on the way to my new home.

Many things about Cofradia make my heart beam. Simple things like lychees, fresh orange juice, the familiar music in a moto and the dreamy languor on the bus ride home from school with a coconut topoigo. The people of Cofradia make me happiest- like the kids on rollerblades who laugh and wave every time we pass each other in the streets, the lady at the pulperia with the sly smile who seems to know exactly what we’re up to, the incredible staff at CBS, and of course the wonderful students and their families.

The thing I admire most about Cofradia is the love I have received and the love I have witnessed. For every home I entered, I left with a full belly of food. For every day I taught at CBS, I was rewarded with the tightest hugs. For every class I substituted for, I was handed numerous love letters and adorable cards. For every morning I walked through the porton at school, I was greeted with smiles and hot coffee. For every failed assignment or misunderstood instruction, I was shown a determination to do better from so many students that still leaves me in awe.

In my opinion, the students at CBS are awesome and they deserve all the best the world has to offer. I have come to love them so much and

The fact of the matter is that by learning English and improving their linguistic skills they will have more opportunities that will open more doors for them. So, if you can, come teach at CBS because I sincerely cannot think of a good enough reason not to. Hopefully, I will meet you soon!