Big thanks are in order for the Waukesha author Scott Stoll who donated Spanish language copies of Falling Uphill: One man’s quest for happiness around the world on a bicycle to all of the girls in our club Vamos Chicas Vamos.
Last week we played games, danced, read and colored Scott’s book, tracked some of his voyage on a map and then all wrote down a dream on a piece of paper. This week we Skyped with Scott, where he reminded the girls that dreams are dreams because they’re hard, but they’re worth fighting for. The girls peppered him with questions about the book (and not the book), like: “Was that woman that you saved after she fainted happy when she woke up? Did you actually eat fried grasshopper? And, look at your teeth! They’re so white. How do you keep them so clean…Show us your big smile one more time?” Thanks, Scott, for happily responding to all questions and requests!
Dreams of the girls included:
-Be a veterinarian
-Be a hairstylist
-Find the end of a rainbow
-Touch the stars and a cloud
-Be an orthodontist
-Be a singer
-Be an architect
-Find a treasure
-Climb a building (In the style of Parkour, gotta say, this one was what surprised me the most!)
And of course, I had a dream, too:
In Paraguay students only go to school for 4 hours per day, 5 days per week. They’re at school for 4.5, but they have a half hour recess usually…
Unless it rains. Or there is a holiday, or a ‘jornada’–mini-conference for teachers, or if it is too cold and class is cut short or canceled altogether. There are many reasons that lower the already low 4.5 hours a day, 5 days a week of education. Some of these reasons are still very legitimate for many– due to poor infrastructure and roads being impassable if it does rain, or no insulation in construction, which makes those few very cold days/nights hard to hold regular class …for those students coming from more rural areas with just dirt roads, getting to and from class in bad weather conditions is difficult, if not impossible.
Still, getting used to these cancellations, such as a month long soccer tournament nearly cancelling all normal classes because one day of that month celebrates Paraguayan Youth, or being advised the day before there is no school because of a teacher conference that just got planned…adapting to all of these interruptions in class is difficult, coming from a background with such a different structure. (True words from my friend Steph’s blog)
One time I was teaching a class at a high school in Paraguari and I was mid-word of a lesson when all of the kids heard a bell and had to run off to a spontaneous Mass. “We just never do know when the priest is going to show up,” the teacher said as she scuttled out the door.
Answering God’s call had never looked so literal to me before.
Anyways, if we didn’t analyze anything about the Paraguayan school system besides the hours of instruction students receive, there would already be cause for concern. I wont even tell you all of the other things that should be taken into consideration for reform, because they’d scare the pants right off of ya!
So, how do we make up for this educational gap? And what are Paraguayan youth learning in their other 12 waking hours of the day?
By offering more educational opportunities outside of school, say, at the train station!
Some Paraguayans may have enough money for their kids to play on a soccer or handball team with a coach, take dance lessons, have private tutoring or take English classes, providing extra environments for their kids to learn valuable life lessons. Although, the vast majority of Paraguayans fall into the category that doesn‘t have access to these things.
The train station, through the training of the high school and college-aged Conductors as cultural guides and facilitators, will be prepared to offer regular (and free!) programming in art & culture, tourism & history, reading, writing, leadership, teamwork & recreation, and homework clubs, reaching out to children, youth and adults come April!
Serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay has left me with lots of things that I don’t understand about the world and my role in it. One thing that I can say with confidence is that it all comes back to education and I believe with all of my heart that everyone deserves access to a quality education.
I believe in Education for All. Help me improve access in Paraguay by donating today!