November 12

I have finally made myself useful – I hope! I was introduced to the Rural Education Institute of Mexico through two friends – George and Joyce Carlson. The organization funds community centres associated with rural schools to provide a place for children to go before or after regular school to receive additional support in developing reading, English language, computer, and other life skills.

There are three shifts, if you will, – two for primary and one for secondary students. This rural centre is in the village of La Palma between San Miguel de Allende and Dolores Hidalgo. It is easy to reach by bus and I was accompanied today by Gaby the director and Salome, an intern from Lisbon, Portugal. The students were reading Charlotte’s Web in Spanish, followed by a lesson in introductions in English. I was impressed by the preparation and attention given by Gaby and Salome. The class was conducted in a very professional manner, the lesson thorough, logical, and fun. This was all accomplished in spite of major challenges. When I say the students were reading Charlotte’s web, I neglected to mention that the class was reading using ONE book. They passed it around, everyone patiently waiting their turn and very attentive. They were quizzed on comprehension and one would never think they were sharing ONE book. My immediate response was to suggest I return on Thursday with 9 more copies. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem that would be an easy accomplishment – but I will go around to the bookstores around SMA and see what I can find. Then I thought of ordering via Amazon, something I do regularly but – not that easy here. So – a mental note to check next year ahead of time and see what reading materials can be brought with us. I know of an online leveled reading program that is excellent and buying a subscription is easy BUT it depends on a printer and photocopier – not something available in the “staff room”.

They are also in dire need of shelving – one set of 4 shelves – 4 ft high by 8 ft long – in total – something I could run to IKEA for in a heartbeat. Alas – I am quite sure it would need to be built. Now Dale is a carpenter but we didn’t bring many tools and even less scrap lumber which would do fine but we don’t know where to start looking for stuff here.

Then there is the “washroom”. The community well sits on the property and so there is water but only a portable toilet and this acquired just recently for their El Dia de Muertos community presentation. They must rent the toilet for $1500 ps per month, including servicing (cleaning) – a significant budget expense. We had quite a chuckle over this but I won’t go into the incidents that prompted the necessity of speedy action on this front. Suffice it to say that a trip to the loo was a trip to the bushes.

If one judges by the children – they are content, engaged, and motivated. They are like students anywhere. Little do they know, nor should they, how their teachers struggle to accomplish the tasks they were charged with. The teachers are doing their job, the children are doing theirs, certainly, the mothers of the village support the centre any way they can. I wish it were easier to fill in some gaps.

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