Where did the past two weeks go?! Today the Secondary Crew departed from the Smokin Balam in Belize City, and headed North to Orange Walk Town. We would like to send a huge thank you to Anna and Jose from the Smokin Balam, as they were wonderful hosts for our stay in Belize City. Our favourite evening at the Smokin Balam would have to be the evening when Anna taught us how to make a traditional Belizean meal (rice and beans, stew chicken, potato salad, fried plantain, and bread pudding)! It was by far the best Belizean meal we have had since coming to Belize!
The Secondary Crew’s final week at the YWCA was nothing short of amazing. We taught lessons on healthy sexual relationships, HIV/AIDS and STIs, mental health, and substance abuse. On Friday we played a culminating game of Jeopardy that tested the girls on their knowledge of all the topics we covered over the past two weeks. After our Jeopardy game, we had a celebratory party with the girls that included a birthday cake for Evan (the girls approached us to throw him a surprise birthday!) and cupcakes for everyone else! A highlight of the week was “Warm and Fuzzies”. Each girl got an envelope to decorate and hang on the wall of the classroom. We encouraged each student to write one nice thing about each of their classmates and place it in the appropriate envelope. On Friday, the girls got to take their envelopes home to read what their classmates had wrote about them! We hope the girls enjoyed their warm fuzzies, because we definitely enjoyed ours! All four of us truly enjoyed working with, and getting to know each and everyone of the young ladies at the YWCA. Working with Mrs. Sanchez (YWCA Principal) and Mrs. Martinez (YWCA Life skills teacher) was also great! They were so warm, welcoming, and accommodating–we couldn’t have asked for anything more.
This week at Gwen Lizarraga, Meg and Georgia had the opportunity to teach, and perfect the bullying and peer pressure lessons. The school’s focus this week was on Bullying and their no tolerance policy, therefore the timing could not have been any better! The students really enjoyed the activities involved in the peer pressure lesson. Students especially loved the “Dog Poo” exercise that is designed to test their knowledge of the techniques to avoid peer pressure. It was great to see students utilize the techniques they had been provided with, sometimes in very creative ways! We had students walk/run away, pick up an imaginary phone, use creative excuses, or simply say no. Although Meg and Georgia only had two opportunities to work with the school’s established Peer Helper Group, these two forty minute sessions were great! The girls were blown away by the student’s intelligence, maturity, and insight into some of the issues they worked through with their peers. On their final day teaching at Gwen Lizarraga, Georgia and Meg got to experience the sheer excitement of the Fourth Form students (grade 12) as they received their graduation letters. It was very inspiring to see how excited the kids were when they found out they had graduated. Georgia and Meg had a great experience at Gwen Lizarraga, and this was largely due to Mrs. Middleton the school’s counsellor. She let Georgia and Meg teach in all of her life skills classes and provided the girls with some very helpful and encouraging feedback at the end of the week.
Lisa and Evan taught at Maud Williams High School this past week and keeping in line with their month’s theme of safe sex the pair taught their HIV/AIDS and Healthy Sexual Relationships lessons daily to different Form 1 and 2 classes. Because of the students’ evident knowledge surrounding the subject, the lesson became a competitive challenge between two teams vying to answer questions. Lisa and Evan were able to teach on specific aspects that students did not understand, myths surrounding the subject and correct misinformed answers. Some of the games got very competitive and Lisa and Evan were able to engage the students through less traditional teaching methods. The pair had the opportunity to work with an incredible counsellor/life skills teacher in Ms. Esther whose passion for her job and the students she teaches was evident. Maud Williams already had an established Peer Leadership program and Lisa and Evan were able to work with them three times this week, teaching effective communication and important aspects of being a leader. Their week with the Peer Leadership group culminated with each student writing a letter to themselves that would be given back to them in a year’s time. The pair wanted the students to write down how they would have an influence on their school community, how they would become stronger peer educators and how they wanted to develop and grow as an individual. It will be interesting for the students to see next spring how they have upheld these goals. Lisa and Evan were also able to work with students in small sessions (approximately 2-3 students) to develop stronger relationships with them and discuss issues pertaining particularly to that group. It was eye opening and inspiring to hear these students stories.
The time certainly has flown by, but it has been such a fantastic experience so far, we expect nothing less in Orange Walk!
Peace and love from Sugar City.
Evan, Georgia, Lisa and Meg