PASEO Program Adventure—Days 34 and 35: El Porvenir y Huanchaco, Peru

On Thursday (of last week), we returned to three different schools to observe whether or not any changes had been made in the classroom following the workshops we provided throughout the past few weeks. While some classrooms continued to have difficulties gaining the attention of students, other classrooms were thriving with participation, motivation, and passion on behalf of the teachers. It’s truly incredible to see such a small difference taking place, and we can only hope that these students will feel a greater level of support in the classroom setting, since so many of them lack the support they need and deserve in their households.

On Friday, we had our Spanish Grammar course, followed by a new experience that myself and one of the other students are just beginning. Today, we began a group for adolescent males at a site that provides meals to children of women (many of whom experienced domestic violence), as well as a safe space where they can play, do homework, do crafts, or just have socialize with friends and community members. Since there are no male workers or volunteers on site, myself and another male from our program began a group for adolescent males, which will focus on providing psychoeducation regarding healthy interpersonal relationships, feelings of anger, aggression, and how to manage them in a healthy manner, as well as effective communication skills.

While there is a great need to focus on possible trauma and situations that these children and adolescents have experienced, unfortunately, due to timing, it wouldn’t be fair to begin therapy and return to the States shortly after. Therefore, we can only hope that these groups will provide these teenagers with a greater level of support, as well as beneficial information about the aforementioned topics. 

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PASEO Program Adventure—Day 21: El Porvenir, Huanchaco, y Cajamarca Peru

This morning (Friday—yes, we’re still playing catch-up), we traveled to El Porvenir to present our first workshop to teachers in one of the local national (public) schools. For the past two-and-a-half weeks, another student and I have been conducting observations in 12 national schools throughout El Porvenir and Trujillo Alto. The purpose of these observations was to note how students behave in the classroom setting, how teachers respond to student behaviors, and overall student/student and student/teacher interactions. Seeing as the specific program the other student and I are working with is geared towards preventing students from getting involved in the legal system, the overall goal is to help the teachers develop and foster a more supportive learning environment for these students.

Keeping in mind that many of these students do not have strong familial support, have limited resources at home, have parents who have to work around the clock to provide for the family (and are therefore left with limited parental supervision), have parents who want them to start working after primary school because an immediate income is more important than continued education, have parents who are involved in gangs/in jail, and/or are involved in gangs themselves, there are many outside factors that come into play that prove difficult for teachers to make an overall difference in the lives of these students.

As we interacted with the teachers throughout the workshop, we discussed various individual, social, familial, school-wide, and communal risk factors that many of these students face including teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse, joining gangs, and dropping out of school. Seeing as these were primary concerns addressed during the observations we conducted, we were then able to hear about the experiences these teachers have had with their students in each of the aforementioned categories. We discussed supportive factors too though, because as difficult as it may be to navigate around so many risk factors, there are always supportive factors that can counteract any and all risk factors. For many of these students, these teachers are exactly that.

When you spend years working in a profession where more often than not you feel exhausted, pushed to the limit, under-appreciated, and feel like the odds of success for your students are stacked against them due to so many outside influences, it gets difficult (to say the least) to persevere and keep trying to impact the lives of our future generation. The teachers we met with continue to do this, and as they described their motivation to join the field of education and their desire to continue working in this field, it truly sparked a beacon of light and hope in what has seemingly felt like a dark tunnel—especially when looking at the overall resources provided to these schools for educational purposes and the countless barriers that so many of these children continuously face on a daily basis.

After the workshop, we returned back to Huanchaco for our Global Mental Health class, which I’ll discuss in a later post. The rest of the day was spent getting a head-start on homework, and of course eating pollo saltado before traveling to Cajamarca, Peru for the weekend.

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PASEO Program Adventure- Day 6: Huanchaco y El Porvenir, Peru

This morning began with a class on Motivational Interviewing in Spanish. Motivational Interviewing is a style of counseling that focuses on trying to motivate clients to achieve change on their own terms. It makes sense when you think about it. If someone tells or forces you to change an existing habit, odds are, you likely won’t change. But if can attain some sort of intrinsic motivation to make a change, the outcome will be much more significant. (Keep that in mind the next time you tell a loved one they need to change an existing behavior.) 

The afternoon was spent in El Porvenir at a different school doing more observations. Many of the kids come from families whose parents are in gangs and/or commit serious crimes. Other kids come from families who have neglected them, which often times affects their behaviors in the classroom. Some of the teachers believe that this is the biggest barrier in the classroom setting, which is difficult, to say the least, because how do you make such a large systemic change in such a short amount of time? Then again, I’m sure plenty of people across the globe are asking the same question.  

One positive note is that any time a student wants to speak in front of the class, he or she has to stand up, which helps foster public speaking skills and a greater level of confidence (as uncomfortable as it is). And anytime an adult walks into the classroom, all of the students stand up to show their respect. Students are also expected to participate in school events such as plays and historical reinactments throughout the school year, which helps them learn to work alongside one another. Something that was also nice to see was a small garden, created and cared for by some of the students. Anytime you plant a seed of any kind, it’s only a matter of time before it blossoms into something worthwhile. 

While there is definitely work to be done, it’s refreshing to see small acts of kindness at a young age that will hopefully add up to help these children find a different path in life than the path that many of their family members have taken.