When I first arrived at the Seeds of Hope volunteer house, I couldn’t help but notice the large amount of volunteers. I first had a conversation with Isabelle, who is originally from Belgium, and came here after taking a sabbatical from her job in Market research. She seemed a bit tired, and no wonder why… she has only had four days off since March!
Isabelle´s reason for volunteering at Seeds of Hope is because she loves children so much. She explained that in the first month, it is like a wave hitting you, as you try to understand the situation with the kids. Isabelle stresses that the children need structure, and are not getting this either at home or at school. She says they need creativity, as all they ever do at school is just copy information down from the blackboard. Because they are so focused on copying, they don´t even want to understand the task, and really need to be encouraged. Every day they reach a result with the children at Seeds, but it starts all over again because they go back to school… to the same routine.
Isabelle pulled together ideas and organised the schools schedule, together with a previous volunteer Sharon, who I was previously in contact with via the net. Every month they have a paseo (excursion), but if the children do not earn enough points, they are not allowed to go. In the 1st month, only half of the kids got to go, but in the second month, all of them went. On the paseo´s, when mini vans are hired, the places the children go to include the movies, the theatre, having sports days, and to the park to play. Two weeks ago, they even had a party for the older children, and are now working on one for the little kids.
Last year at Seeds, three children’s parents didn’t have enough money to send their children to school. Luckily the parents could afford it this year, with the help of Seeds paying for every single child at Seed’s school materials, and some uniforms. The three children who couldn’t go to school last year all have an eye condition, and Seeds of Hope will soon be having a fundraiser so that they can all have an operation.
The majority of the children don’t feel motivated and have learning disabilities. The parents never check their homework, as most can’t read or write themselves. Most are behind in class levels, and the teaching methods are sometimes absurd. One child was told by his teacher at school to write down the numbers from 1,000 to 2,000 and accidentally wrote the numbers from 2,000 to 3,000. He cried because he knew that he would never have the time to re-do it and because he was going to get in trouble from his teacher. Another child who didn’t finish his homework was hit across the fingers.
Many of the teachers get frustrated with the children, and just don’t end up caring anymore. One day when Isabelle went with another woman to interview the teacher about teaching methods, she witnessed the children running around screaming! A lot of the teachers come from around the areas in the mountains and their level of education is very low. There is no creativity whatsoever when the children are being taught.
My first day at the Seeds of Hope school in Huaraz, I watched as the kids cuddled and kissed every volunteer, including me, before beginning class. There are 2 classes of about 25 children, one class from 9:30am-12am for the older kids (9-15 years) and one from 3:00pm-5:30pm for younger children aged 6-11 years.
Just before, when 9 volunteers from the house were walking to the school, I met Nancy who is from America, and was only volunteering for a couple of days. The volunteers at Seeds of Hope are here for a few days, a few weeks, a few months or sometimes a few years. Nancy said to me that people tell her what a selfless act it is that she is volunteering, but she explained to me that she feels it can also be a selfish act as she loves children and needs to improve her Spanish.
Jack is another volunteer here, and is a deputy Principal at a primary school back in America. He says he absolutely loves it here, and loves the fact that the children are so appreciative.
Betty is also here (the volunteer I met at Seeds of Hope in Cusco). She has been here for a couple of days and seems to really be enjoying herself. I also met John Paul, a man from England who is volunteering here for about a week, and also Elvis, who is a local who has been working with different organisations that help kids for 3 years. Elvis has been at Seeds for 2 years.
Mark has been here for about 1 month on and off, and his sister Katie only just arrived a few days ago. They are from NY State, and love to go hiking in the mountains here in Huaraz and come back to Seeds of Hope to help. Mark says that other organisations charge too much money and here at Seeds of Hope, you pay to only cover your costs of housing, food and Spanish lessons… you can volunteer for free here if you live in another house. He feels like he can make a huge difference helping the children with English and Maths.
Mark says that everything that Seeds of Hope do, is so beneficial. Psychologists come and talk to the children, there are good hygiene practices, and small healthy meals each day for the kids. Mark feels the children really want to learn and are grateful for everything they receive here.
Even more volunteers kept appearing at the school and house, locals and international people who were all coming for different amounts of time.
During the morning I sat at the table with the children, and focused on teaching a young boy the English alphabet, while Yuri (the person who started Seeds of Hope), stood in the kitchen preparing Quaker (a drink made of porridge, water and milk) for the children. When the kids have finished their homework, they ask permission to go and play outside, and either skip, play soccer and volleyball, or just lay about doing their own thing. In the afternoon, I taught a 6 year old boy mathematics. Funnily enough I had to re-teach myself how to multiply it had been that long for me.
Seeds of Hope is now in the process of fundraising to build an additional room to the school so that they can meet individually with children and/or parents if there are any sensitive topics that need to be discussed. They are also fundraising to fix up the back yard so that the children can play.
Seeds of Hope is also in the process of opening a cafe and travel agency, where the volunteer house it located, to better fund the organisation, rather than just receiving donations.
If you would like to donate to, or volunteer at Seeds of Hope, visit the website for more information: www.peruseeds.org
Seeds of Hope