Home Life Lessons Peace Corps is a Roller Coaster Ride: Summer School Year 2

Peace Corps is a Roller Coaster Ride: Summer School Year 2

I have now been in Peru for more than a year and a half and find myself coasting along in Phase 4 of this roller coaster ride: “Acceptance.” This past February was a perfect example. (If you missed part 1 of this post, see Peace Corps is a Roller Coaster Ride: 27 Months)

Summer school classes were canceled in the secondary school, so I coordinated with the local municipality and the primary school to organize my own classes. I tried for weeks before starting classes to work sustainably by involving a local teacher, but eventually our plans fell through and I was left to work alone.

team building exercise for young students and making chanchitos and piggy banks
LEFT: Team-building exercises. RIGHT: Making chanchitos, piggy banks, and learning about financial goals. Photos by Alex Brouwer

For most volunteers, the rainy season months of January and February and Vacaciones Útiles classes present unique challenges. With large class sizes, we often end up working alone even though it’s a problematic sign our work is not sustainable. (See my first summer school experience here: Rainy Season and Summer School)

Yet for me, this February may have been my favorite month of service. My class was comprised primarily of a small group of  9-12 year olds. In other words, each class was full of energy, interesting questions, and short attention spans. We focused on leadership, life skills, sports, and art and would hang out before or after the class playing group games. Their favorite is Ninja!

Since I normally work with around 130 students on a weekly basis, I appreciated the opportunity to spend multiple hours every day with the same small group of students. Also, working alone freed me from the constant challenge of coordinating with teachers and gave me the freedom to develop my own classes and workshops. Along with this freedom, I felt more comfortable this year with the students and with my Spanish, and it was obvious their trust in me had also improved.

Peruvian students on a hike in a forest
A picture from our hike next to trees which are more than 500 years old. Photo by Alex Brouwer
young Peruvian children
Many students are responsible for taking care of their younger siblings. Instead of staying home, they’d often bring them to class. These two became my little friends, despite their frequent distractions. Photo by Alex Brouwer

The classes culminated with a day hike along the Inca trail to a nearby town where we visited Inca ruins. I invited a friend from Tarma who served as our guide along with another friend who is an environmental engineer. More students participated than I expected, and the trip was a wonderful way to celebrate the end of summer classes and the start of the new school year.

The school year has now officially started, and I’m optimistic about my last 7 months here in Huaricolca. Despite high teacher turnover, the schools and I have improved our coordination and work by learning from our successes and failures of last year.

Teachers and I are working to develop small groups of leaders in each grade while continuing to improve weekly life skills classes which are part of the Peruvian curriculum. We also hope to expand our “Professional Hour,” an event we did last year, by inviting different universities and technical institutes to participate and focusing on job orientation before and after the event.

vegetable field in Huaricola and walking to a nearby town
LEFT: Huaricolca turns green during rainy season. Here you can see the potato plants blossoming. RIGHT: A shot down into valley from our hike to a nearby town to finish our classes. Photos by Alex Brouwer

Above all, I’m excited to continue building friendships with students and sharing moments with my host families. Time flies, and I know that too soon this wild ride will be coming to an end.

****Disclaimer: “The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Peruvian Government.”

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