Gratitude Is My Attitude

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I have lived in Cofradia for 115 days. Out of these days there has been a total of 0 days that I haven’t awoken in the morning and felt gratitude. To be able to be in the exact place you were meant to be, doing exactly what you want to do is an amazing feeling. Every day I am overcome with thankfulness and gratitude. From the incredible kids at our school who make my job exciting, challenging and most of all rewarding, to the beautiful home we have here, to the new people we have met that we now call our friends and the opportunity to truly assimilate into a new culture. My thankful for list is endless and continues to grow each day. When you have an attitude of gratitude your outlook on life exudes positivity and this in turn causes a peace and happiness that is difficult to be shaken when difficult circumstances come your way.

Whpamen I was deciding what to write about in this blog, my mind kept coming back to the people. The people are why we are here. There is something so uplifting about seeing people happy when their circumstances are often quite the opposite.  Living here has showed me that happiness is a choice. It doesn’t depend on what the weather is, how much money is in your bank account, what your furniture looks like or how many friends you have. There are people here that live in concrete houses without windows or doors, without kitchens, without clean water, and sometimes even not knowing where their next meal will come from. Even with these challenges, I see them with smiles on their faces, inviting guests over and cooking for them, sharing what little they have. Regardless of their life situation, they are choosing happiness.

The kids that I have the privilege of teaching bring such a light into our lives.pam They are filled with wonder when you teach them a new song or a show them an experiment to learn about hard and soft foods. They squeal with excitement when they get to do a fun craft or when they earn their 5 stickers from good behavior and get to pick from the prize bin. They have the most beautiful smiles that can literally melt your heart. Between their hugs, their giggles, the pictures they make for me, and their love of using newly learned words I have never enjoyed my days more.

Entering into the holiday season, I want to keep sharing love and spreading happiness. I can’t wait to experience the traditions of a Honduras Navidad.  Being here with my children and being able to give away donations sent from family and friends will help us live out the true meaning of Christmas spirit. Giving is far more gratifying than receiving could ever be. Embrace your family, make new memories, continue your holiday traditions and Feliz Navidad!

pam-3Miss Pam, 1st Grade Teacher

 

 

Te Quiero, Cofradia

When I told my parents I was going to Honduras to teach they laughed and asked, “are you sure that’s a good idea?” My grandma remarked, “I hope that is in Ontario.” Honduras is certainly not in Ontario, and coming here has been one of the best ideas of my life. I saw the listing for Cofradia’s Bilingual School and was immediately drawn to the school, I applied for the position the same day I saw it.

dsc01630There is something so compelling about CBS, that sets it apart from any other teaching setting I have encountered. The students and teachers are the most wonderful group of people I have witnessed, and the love and admiration they have for each other is what makes the school so successful. The school is so incredible that sometimes you forget that you have not had running water for four days, sometimes.

My two month stay is almost at a close, I leave later in the week, and although I look forward to hot water, and Canadian poutine, I do not look forward to having to leave behind the people I had grown so close to. I have never met a more welcoming, appreciative and loving group of students than the one’s at CBS. Cofradia is the most impressive place I have visited, and I think forever it will hold a deep place in my heart.

Cofradia’s beauty lies in the people dsc01407who live here. Teaching these students is so rewarding, and their eagerness drives you to constantly improve everything from your teaching methods to your outlook on life. Kneeling down to give a kid a hug and then being mauled by twelve first-graders, gives someone a feeling that cannot be replicated. Or sitting with a child in your lap colouring together, when he turns to you and says, “te quiero, Miss. I love you.”

I want to thank the students and teachers of Cofradia’s Bilingual School for showing so much appreciation and dedication, you have changed my life and I will miss you all.

Te quiero.

Miss Scarlett, Resource Teacher.

 

Me Encanta Cofradia

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CBS, a small school in Cofradia. Made up of about 300 students. It’s where I’ve been volunteering my time for the last 3 months. I am teaching English, Social Studies, and Science to 4th graders. img_3156Working with these children has easily been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. In just the three short months I’ve been here I have fallen in love with my position as a teacher and with the students of CBS. The students here are different than the ones from back home in America, they’re overall a bit tougher here and seem to have stronger wills. Personally I have found that this leads to both more challenges with my students but also a much stronger bond with them. Most are not shy and their blunt honesty shines through and lets you see exactly who and what you’re dealing with. Like I said, sometimes you really appreciate their honesty and other times you think “Wow, am I actually getting fat?”… (The answer to that is probably not. I’ve lost roughly 15 pounds since I have been here! Beans and rice will do that to a guy.)

“Me encanta Cofradia” is always my answer when people ask what I think about living here in Honduras. Life here is totally different than it is at home and I couldn’t be happier with that fact. Not so much that I don’t like life at home, instead I embrace and enjoy the challenges of every day life here. I will not lie to you, if you’re not ready to adapt to a new lifestyle, then I suggest you either volunteer for the shorter duration or not at all. You can look at the grueling heat we undergo and think “Wow, this is horrible…”, or, you can think “Praise Jesus, I have a fan!”. I choose the latter. The challenges I have faced here, in only three short months, have already made me a stronger person with a better outlook on life. I have taken joy in every thing I possibly can and try my best not to take advantage of what I have. I pray that I can uphold this mindset when I return home to the land where nothing is quite “good enough”. IMG_3292.jpgThe beautiful thing about this country is they know how to relax and just roll with the punches. You order food and it takes 30 minutes to be made. Big deal. Hang out and talk for a bit. When you get it, it has a taste that you’d be willing to wait twice as long for. One thing for certain, I am a food enthusiast. When people ask how I’m doing, I usually end up ranting about the delicious flavors this country has to offer. Beleadas, fried chicken, tajadas, meat plates, gringas, fried fish, and now I’m hungry. The options they have here are out of this world and I officially give Honduras a ‘food lovers stamp of approval’.

Lastly, I want to tell you about the people in this wonderful country. They are the main reason why this country gives such a breath taking and life changing experience to people like me. They are some of the most grateful and generous people I have ever met. Many families here have close to nothing yet they still want to give you everything. I can think of one such interaction with a family in which they did me great favor and would not, no matter how many times I tried, accept money for the favor. Instead, they decided to provide dinner and entertainment for the evening for both me and my girlfriend. Quite an unorthodox and unexpected exchange it was, to me anyway. The happiness here is contagious. Communication with Hondurans is not always easy for people like me, being that the extent of my spanish when I arrived was “hola”. It’s possible that it has something to do with the communication gap. That being said, If you take the time to interact with the people here, you will not be disappointed. They are patient with non-bilingual people like myself and do their best to help the conversation move along “smoothly”.

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I have enjoyed myself immensely for the last three months and I look forward to what the next seven months bring for me. I still have quite a lot to learn!

Mr Graham, 4th Grade Teacher

 

Showing Up

kinderThere is a certain humility that comes with being a long-term volunteer. As a white American, I learned very quickly that I needed to know my place and my role within the community. Many people approach volunteering in a developing country with the notion that they are going to ch9thange the world and experience new and wonderful cultures and be met with gratitude for all that they are doing. While that can be true, what my time at CBS has taught me is how important it is to realize that it is not about you at all. I saw many volunteers come through with a sense of entitlement. They felt that they were making a big sacrifice just by showing up (which to be fair, they were) and that that in itself should earn them the respect of the students at our school. They then became deeply offended when such respect was not always instantly awarded and instead they found themselves having to learn how to reach rowdy, difficult children who did not want to do their work or apathetic, unimpressed teenagers, not to mention the parents who constantly questioned their child’s marks but did not want to take an active role in helping them learn. 20150713_133514[183].jpg

I learned we all have to work much harder than that, because at the end of the year the international volunteers get to leave and the children have to stay here. That is their reality, and for some of them it is pre1st.jpgtty grim. Many live in poverty, some are absolutely destitute, and many of our students come from broken families and serious abuse. It is not our right to be accommodated as if we are living in a developed country or to expect automatic openness and trust from every student just because we showed up. It is a privilege to be granted access into the reality of the people who live here, and we must learn how to live and help within their reality rather than try to impose on it.

I taught at CBS from 2013-2015 and I was also the Volunteer Coordinator/Vice Principal during my second year. After counting the days until I could return, I am finally back here visiting and teaching for two months.  I am so impressed with this year’s group of volunteers. They are giving it their all and have so much genuine love for their students. Many of them are constantly questidia tipico.jpgoning and assessing their teaching methods, and how to better help their students learn. Evenings lesson planning around the table turn into brainstorming sessions on how to teach a tricky concept or how to best help a struggling student. It is very encouraging to work with a group that is always trying to figure out how they can give their students more. I was gone for 15 months and I thought about and missed and worried over the kids at CBS every day that I wasn’t here. Now I am trying to slow down time because the weeks are flying by and I don’t know how I am going to bring myself to leave again. But at least when I do I am leaving behind a group of people whose actions have told me “We get it, we love it here, we love the kids, and we’ve got this.”

Amanda, 8th and 9th grade teacher

In Comparison

Earlier this year I woke up to the skyline of Dubai with the Burj Khalifa in the distance. I was tanning 1000 metres up in the Transylvanian mountains after a long day of teaching at camp. And I was riding a Ferris wheel from the 1950’s in Eastern Europe in the pouring rain while looking at soviet style apartments that lined the horizon.

This is my first time on this side of the hemisphere. I am currently watching my friends send me autumn pictures with a pallet of orange and browns at the end of October. I check outside the window, still green and blooming. It’s over 30 degrees some days. Baleadas or platanos are for breakfast after my first lessons of the day, and then lunch is usually some sort of meat and rice, or tajadas, enchiladas and the such. I write ‘I eat fish and chips with my best friend after school’ on the board when I give an example of my timeline at school to my children. They point it out, say it’s cool.

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I don’t really miss Brexit Britain. I do miss the gourmet microwaveable Tesco finest meals, and hot running water, maybe even some pate on toast, but I love it here. Even when I’m sweating like a hot mess over a gas stove trying to make bland pasta for the second time and cursing that I will never attempt to cook while I’m here. So it’s pretty much the same as University. Except that I sometimes hang around with ten year olds after school as their family keeps offering me food. I walk home stuffed and sticky from the heat. And then I get home and the water isn’t on.

I actually feel rewarded after a day of teaching, rather than writing another rushed essay on linguistics and dreading whether this time it will be below a B grade. I taught the word ‘proud’ the other day. One of my students came up to me and told me that she is proud of me for being a good teacher. And I told her that I am proud of her too.

I put off teaching for so long. I didn’t want to be that cliché English graduate who becomes a teacher. I wanted to be more ‘cool’, spinning on a chair in an editorial office, checking for errors in texts. I still do that, correcting the perfect tense and spellings in notebooks, but minus the crippling knee pain and eye soreness from having a 9 to 5 office job. Been there, done that. I am Miss Andreea now, and I own it.

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To whoever is reading this, probably wanting to know what it’s like to live here and whether they should dedicate their time and resources to come here, I’m not going to sugar coat it for you: it’s insanely rewarding but it comes with its own dangers.  San Pedro Sula, the city next to Cofradia, is notorious for its murder rate. You constantly stick out here and you get stared at a lot. But I assure you, the community is friendly, the scenery is gorgeous and the kids will love you from the get go.

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(P.S, it’s amazing what you can teach with just a printed sheet, a whiteboard and some penguin roleplay. I’m pretty sure the words ‘incubate the egg’ is forever stuck in my student’s mind. As well as the spelling of ‘reproduction.’ And Grammar lessons are To be or not to be, because that is always the question!)

Cheers for reading, yours sincerely,

Miss Andreea, 5th Grade Teacher.

All Work and No Pay

Prior to Honduras, I was a university student bored of homework and studying. As such — like many others have — I elected to take a break from university to seek out a ‘life-changing endeavor’ that could better prepare me for my following academic years. Seeing an opportunity to teach in Honduras, I thought ‘what could possibly be better?’. Teaching doesn’t sound too crazy; I can develop skills in leadership, establish a solid work-ethic and hopefully come to better understand the realities of human beings like us in less fortunate conditions. It all sounds great on paper: flawless, even.  I worked at Subway, and did a lot of work in landscaping to save money for my imminent year volunteering. I even earned a certification for Teaching English as a Second Language online during the summer. This was going to be the smoothest year of my life, yet.img_0783

I’ve been a teacher for 2 months, and boy was I naïve to think any aspect of teaching would be easy.

My first month in the classroom was probably the most challenging month of my life. I didn’t at all understand how to properly discipline my class of 3rd graders, and I would spend over an hour on a single day’s lesson only to scrap it at the first sight of being ineffective (stupid habit). After a while, having graded a decent amount of classwork and tests, I was frustrated with nobody but myself. I saw brilliant kids with bad grades, and I knew it was nobody’s fault but my own. The most challenging thing I’ve ever had to do is accept how bad of a teacher I am in many areas, and work twice as hard in those areas to understand proper pedagogy of the English language. This is by far the most important job I’ve ever held in my short 19-year-old life, and I wasn’t treating it with the urgency it deserved.

I’ve doneimg_1045 a lot to improve as a teacher: countless hours online looking for teaching strategies and activities, tutoring every day, and over all I’ve begun using my teacher-friend resources both here and in the U.S. I found that teachers love helping teachers, and I was stupidly refraining from asking for help under the impression I would grow as a more original teacher. Fortunately, that’s not how it works.

Every week I come significantly closer to becoming the great teacher I want to be. However, traveling a mile means little when circumnavigating the world. Here in Honduras, providing my kids with a great education IS my world. It’s also a hell of a lot bigger than whatever planet you’re from. Every day it can be something little like smoothing out the kinks in classroom activities, finding a few good activities online, or better understanding how to express information without using an 8-year-old’s native language.

With teaching to resume this week, I’m both incredibly excited, and nervous. I’m excited to continue teaching, as I know I have improved significantly from the teacher I was 2 months ago. I’m nervous because I know there’s no such thing as a perfect teacher. As such, I know I can expect to continue having difficulties I may not figure out how to overcome. In the beginning I was a naïve, unprepared college student thinking he could rule the classroom with an educated thumb. Now, I’m a slightly less clueless teacher with a motivation like no other to make a mark on my students.

I absolutely cannot say this has been the smoothest time of my life. However, one fifth of a way through my 10 month stay, I know this has already been by far the most life-changing.

  • Noah, 3rd Grade Teacher

The Easy Life

I won’t lie to you and tell you it’s always easy living in Honduras. It’s not. During my two years here, there have been days where I would’ve paid an obscene amount of money to just be in the United States for 12 hours- to take a hot shower, sleep on a nice bed with the AC on, order some good American food to my front door. I daydream about it sometimes on days when it feels like 145 degrees Fahrenheit and we haven’t had water in the house for a week. Everything in the US just comes so easy. You turn on the tap, and immediately there’s water coming out of it. The first thing I do every morning in Honduras is turn on the tap and give it a minute. I wait to see if there’s any trickling of water or even the sound of air that could mean water’s coming. Usually there’s not.

This past school year, Honduras started to beat me down a little. I had taken on a lot of new responsibilities with the role of Volunteer Coordinator and Vice Principal all rolled into one. On top of that, due to various different factors, we were short a few teachers and I ended up teaching Kinder and 4th grade. I love teaching and I love working at the school, but with the stress from my administrative responsibilities and planning classes and translating for non-spanish speaking volunteers and trying to recruit new volunteers and looking for scholarships and, and, and…. You get the picture. And then the summer came. We were living in this beautiful apartment that was on the second floor. It was great because we had an amazing view of the mountains. It was not so great because for the water to get up to the second floor, the pressure had to be really good, which it rarely was. This meant typically we had water in the house once or twice a week- enough to fill up buckets to shower with, wash dishes, and keep everyone in the house reasonably sane. Then the summer came.

Summer in Honduras means that from about 8am until 11pm it feels like you’re walking through hot, melted butter. Over 100 degrees with 100 percent humidity, and you’re sweating from everywhere on your body constantly. But usually the worst of the summer heat is only a few weeks long and you get through it. You look back and think, “Yeah, that really wasn’t that bad.” This year it was that bad. It was two and a half months with no rain. No rain means no water. In those two and a half months, I think we had water in our apartment a total of five times for about an hour or so each time. One time it was at 1am, but a volunteer actually woke up and started doing dishes, if that gives you any sense of the state our kitchen was in. And we were lucky- we usually had some water about the house, whether downstairs in a trashcan that we cleaned out to store water in or in the very, very dirty pila belonging to the salon downstairs. Many people in town had no access to water at all and were taking their clothes and dishes to the river to wash them.

When the rain finally came, I was on a bus coming back from San Pedro. We all waited, staring out the window, watching the big, gray storm clouds teasing us. The first couple drops came down and there was hushed excitement on the bus. Once it really got going outside, it was like a full out party. People had their hands out the windows.   Everyone was talking and laughing. I honestly don’t think I can describe the pure joy I felt at this rain. Something as simple as rain.

I’m not a very emotional person or at least I wasn’t before I came here. This may sound clichéd but Honduras has a way of making you emotional. There are days when it beats you down a little, but the highs are so high. There are simple joys, like hugs from the kids, turning the tap and water coming out, or rain. There are also times where I’m looking at the mountains, there are birds chirping, and I can hear kids running around and laughing and the only thought running through my head is that life is beautiful and I feel so lucky to experience it here. I know how sappy this sounds. Trust me. Before I came here if you told me I’d be sitting on a bus almost crying happy tears about some rain, I’d say you must be talking about the wrong girl. But it’s the truth. I feel so lucky to live here and know all the people here who I have grown to love. This isn’t the easiest place I’ve ever lived, but I’m happier here, without all the comforts, than I have ever been anywhere else.

-Liz

Kinder Teacher and Volunteer Coordinator

My Home In Honduras

I don’t subscribe to the notion that people have one home and are simply either away from home or at home. Let me explain; My first home is Faro, Yukon, a small town with a population of 400 people in Northern Canada, where I grew up and wh
ere my parents continue to live. My second home is Orange in New South Wales, Australia where I spent a year as an exchange student during grade 11. Now, at the age of 19, I am incredibly happy to announce that I have a third home. That’s right, Cofradia, Cortes, Honduras!

The initial plan for my trip to Honduras was to work IMG_0696at Cofradia’s Bilingual School for just one month. It was during my Skype interview with the volunteer coordinator that I decided a month would not be long enough and asked if I could stay for three. She said yes and offered me a position as a resource teacher. Two weeks before I was due to arrive I received an email asking if I would be willing to instead teach grade one. So here I am, living in Honduras and teaching a class of 28 absolutely wonderful, lovable, crazy first IMG_0758graders.

My first day teaching can be best described as ‘hectic.’ I had a carefully thought-out lesson plan written down and memorized which very quickly fell apart. As I had only somewhat anticipated, I felt completely in-over my head. I have worked with kids previously as a swim instructor, ice-skating coach, and even as a substitute teacher, however, nothing had prepared me for this. I watched on in horror as kids, whose names I had yet to learn, talked over top of me instead oIMG_0972f listening or hid under desks and wandered outside instead of looking at the board. At the end of the day, despite feeling like I had completely failed my students, all 28 of them gave me big hugs or high-fives before leaving. It is very hard
to explain just how uplifting so many hugs and high-fives from little, smiling faces can be after a trying day. Needless to say, although tired and hot, I was not discouraged.

With the help and advice from the previous grade one teacher, the following days got better and better. By the end of the week I had established a routine, learned the names of all my students, and figured out which terms they knew and which ones they did not. I have now been teaching for five weeks and still each day, with the occasional exception, seems to run smoother than the last. I must admit I feel quite the sense of accomplishment when I say “hands on your head” and a choir of little voices shouts back “bums in your chairs” and then waits intently for me to speak, except of course for the few boys who are still giggling about the word bum.IMG_0772

When I arrived in Cofradia I did not think that I would have much of a social life, however, it has been quite the opposite. My housemates are great and we spend plenty of time together just chatting or eating pupusas or making trips to the supermarket or watching football and sometimes all of the above. I have made some Honduran friends as well. I feel very lucky to have friends who are from here because I have gotten to do a lot of things I do not imagine I otherwise would have. These have included spectating some strange horse game that I am still unsure exists anywhere else in the world, relaxing at a swimming pool I did not know existed, riding in the back of a pick up truck through the mountains, trying fruits I have never heard of before, and eating snails (which I was unaware I was doing until after). I have also joined a crossfit gym and although I skip more often than I am proud to admit due to the heat or having other plans, it’s always great when I actually do go.

IMG_0839       I know that at the end of my three months in Honduras I will not be ready to leave my new home. Everyday I continue to be motivated and inspired by so many of the students at CBS and their eagerness to learn and willingness to work hard. Everyday I become more certain that this is exactly where I am meant to be and that my work here will not be done when my time in Honduras is. Everyday I become more confident in my decision to come back for another year.

Until next time,

Dana

First Grade Teacher

Home Is Where the Heart Is

I have been asked countless times, “Why did you go to Honduras?”

IMG_0459I always had a small selection of responses to choose from: I want to help teach the children, I love to experience new cultures, it’s an adventure or I wanted to get away. I realized that none of these explained my reason fully.

After being here for ten months I think I am finally able to answer this question in its entirety.

I came to Honduras to learn how I want to live the rest of my life. Friends and family might call Honduras “my home away from home.” Honduras is not that; it is my home.

Last Christmas was my first trip back to the US. It was an interesting experience going back to what used to be my norm but now seemed so foreign. I would wander through the aisles of the grocery store overwhelmed byIMG_0421 the choices. I went to stores with the intention to buy things but would end up leaving empty handed because I couldn’t stomach spending the money. I would flip through a hundred channels looking for something to watch that was worth my time only to end up turning the T.V off again. I would be pleasantly surprised every time I went to turn on the water and it never failed to come on. I sat back and listened to conversations and laughed to myself at how ridiculous they were. I am now only weeks away from going back to the Untied States for the second time and I can’t decide whether to be excited or anxious.

Honduras has been hands down the best thing to ever happen to me.

So…how will I livIMG_0403e my life after Honduras?

I will find pleasure in the simple things. I will always take my first sip of coffee in silence and appreciate its beauty. I will wear a shirt even if it doesn’t match, BECAUSE I WANT TO. I will put down my camera and look at things for myself and not my Facebook friends. I will eat lots of avocados because they are MY favorite. I will go to sleep as early or late as I want. I will keep searching for the constellations in the stars no matter where in the world I am. I will try all the weird foods offered to me. I will always smile and say hello to strangers. I will continue to practice my Spanish, no matter how terrible it might be. I will stay open hearted and love unconditionally.

I’m not sure when I will be ready to leave Honduras, but it’s not anytime soon.

-Justice 3rd & 5th English

The Highs and Lows of 5th Grade

Having done all of the theory that comes behind teaching English to people that do not speak it naturally, I had all of the ideas but none of the experience to back it up. Taking a class for the first time is an odd mix of both fear and excitement, as you never know what is going to happen. Finding the method of teaching that is best for me is a road that I have begun to walk down. I also appreciate it will take some time before I reach my full potential as a teacher.

I have found my class to flip back and forth between listening and struggling to focus. I have the usual mix of class clowns who like to play up to the class for attention and the attentive students who quietly get on with their work.

I have had some lovely surprises in class. The most recent and outstanding was when I gave my kids the story of the boy who cried wolf. I gave it as a reading comprehension exercise. The most difficult of these questions was asking for the message of the story. I did not expect anyone to fully understand this question. What I had gotten back was a collection of kids that understood that it was saying lying is bad. The most outstanding came from one of what I like to call, a dreamer, who is usually staring into space during class. The answer he gav
e was that is lying is bad and that if you lie people will not help you. This blew me away, especially coming this student.

IMG_0491Being someone of very limited Spanish, only a collection of unconnected words, I have found Cofradia to be a friendly place to move around in. I am just about able to exchange a greeting with the local teachers but I still become somewhat lost if a conversation is extended beyond my current comprehension.

Being someone that finds it hard to express myself, I can say that I am enjoying the experience and the challenges that working here is bringing. It is testing my ability to adapt to new limits making and it a ride that I will remember and most likely cherish for some time to come.

-Ian 5th grade