Lesson(s) Learned

Never have a group of small humans looked so intimidating to me. I like kids… scratch that, I love kids. They are fun, open minded, and enjoy arts and crafts, so what’s not to like? Today, it was not that this group of kids looked particularly intimidating. They had smiles on their faces, not frowns. They looked energetic and ready to learn, not annoyed or disinterested. It’s not like they had fangs or something. What made this group so terrifying to me, one might ask? Well, this group of children happened to be my very first audience for my very first charla. A charla is essentially a community or group meeting, many times with an educational purpose. As a PCV, I will be giving many, many charlas throughout my service, on topics ranging from healthy cooking to prevention of HIV/AIDS. For this reason, it makes sense that we should practice giving charlas during training. It makes sense, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t scary as hell.

I consider myself a decent public speaker. As long as it is not a huge group, I don’t get particularly nervous, and I enjoyed facilitating discussions and trainings in college. So again, what made this activity so terrifying? Well, the whole thing was to be presented in Spanish. Shit. Once again, it makes sense. I obviously have to present in Spanish, since that is the language that is spoken and understood here. But, once again, that doesn’t mean it isn’t scary as hell.

Today’s charla was a lesson on the importance of washing your hands with soap and water. It may seem like a simple and well known concept to us, but that is not the case with everyone here. Many people believe that just rinsing your hands with water is sufficient, because they believe that if you cannot see anything (dirt) on your hands, they are clean. We know that this is untrue; germs and bacteria are invisible to us. In fact, here in Ecuador, the leading cause of illness in children is disease caused by unwashed hands. Obviously, the education level about this subject varies greatly within Ecuador. For example, here in Tumbaco (which is a major city) people for the most part understand this issue. My host family washes their hands with soap and water at the critical moments we are taught to: after using the bathroom, before eating, etc. But if you travel even an hour outside of these cities, that kind of information is not common. The same thing goes for other things, like brushing your teeth.

So, how did it go? This morning, we were split into groups of 5 and given some lesson plan ideas. We then had about 15 minutes to organize ourselves before heading to the school. When all of us (about 20 total) arrived, the children were playing in the school yard. Two staff members from the school called them to order, and our training supervisor, Bibi, gave them a quick introduction. She mentioned that we are new and that the students should be patient and help us learn, because we do not know a lot of Spanish and this was our first charla. The kids agreed. My group was assigned kids that looked to be between 8 and 10 years old. We headed to their corner of the school yard to start the session. At this point, I was still pretty nervous. We got the kids to sit in a circle, and sat down with them. We introduced ourselves, and then began with a song. The song was chosen for this charla because it is well known among children. Once we sang it with them, we taught them an “alternate” version that emphasizes cleanliness and hand washing. After repeating it a few times, we then discussed it with them. When should we wash our hands? Why do we wash our hands? How do we wash our hands? For how long? After discussing these questions and practicing how to wash our hands, that’s it, we were done! Since we had about 10 minutes left, we asked the kids if they wanted to teach the gringos a game… of course they did! That taught us a “cat and mouse” type game, which was a combination of tag and red rover. After a few rounds, they selected me to me the “mouse”, i.e. the person being chased. Thankfully, I made it through the round without tripping or hurting myself or others haha.

Although I was nervous about it, I am so glad that we had our first charla today. I think our training supervisor was very wise to plan this activity for today, as we will be conducting 5-6 more charlas on nutrition and hygiene next week during our health technical trip! We have more time to plan for those ones though, and now we know what to expect. Most importantly, with one charla under our belts, we now have a little more confidence in ourselves, and we are up for the challenges that next week will bring. Although our objective was to give a lesson in hand washing, we clearly learned a few things ourselves.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by MMM on June 25, 2011 at 12:08 am

    congrats on getting the first one out of the way 🙂


  2. Posted by Cheryl on June 29, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Hey Katrina, love reading your blog and hearing about your adventures, keep up the good work, thinking of you…Cheryl


  3. Thank you ladies!


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