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Testimony from Katalina, long term EVS (European Voluntary Service) volunteer in Peru:


So i guess quite a few things have gone on since i last blogged…went to visit a nearby little town called Pacosmayo with some of the other volunteers, it was our first national bank holiday so we made the most of it! It was a charming little fishing town 2 hours up from Trujillo. And it was just lovely to be out of Trujillo for the first time and the pier there is amazing, one of Peru’s longest piers and also one of the longest piers I think I will ever see! We all tiptoed to the end of it, it was definitely falling apart and although you payed an entrance fee of 10p to walk on it, it would have been prohibited in England it was that old! With a railway track going right to the end of it, and as we got to the end there were less and less planks to stand on and the rail tracks were becoming more and more eroded and rusty, but once at the end we all sat down and saved a trapped crab. It was wedged in between some remaining planks and was really super wedged in but it was still alive 🙁 but we managed to put it out its misery buy very carefully rotating it out with much difficulty and chucking it back in the sea. Also while sat on the end of the pier we noticed that the little fishing boats were all crowed with birds, pelicans! Quite a spectacular sight, I don’t remember ever seeing a pelican and then TADA, suddenly hundreds just chilling on some boats bobbing around in the Atlantic ocean?! And we also saw a man catch a squid and kill it, with his bare hands while it was crazily wriggling around, and then black squid ink squirted all over him. Sad but fantastic sight to catch!Anyway that was alll AGES ago! So I’m going to move on to more recent things that have been going on in my life!


Let’s start with things at SKIP and the work I’ve been doing. Group 2 are my favorite job I think, they’re all so cute, with the biggest personalities ever and they can be quite naughty (well to each other, fighting sometimes with the boys and also snatching things off each other, hogging rubbers and copying each others work) but they’re mostly really well behaved and love doing their work. When I first got here they used to LOVE reading (well the ones that can read) and used to come in, settle down, and read quietly and alone for the 20 minutes they have for reading. These days they’re a bit more impatient and unsurprisingly want to play as soon as they get in the classroom! And I also have a pupil named Evelyn who is lovely but has learning disabilities and can be extremely distracting and naughty and never gets round to doing any work, and she is most best at stopping the other kids doing their work, by snatching their worksheets, generally annoying them, stealing their resources…stealing their shoes! bags! whatever she can get her hands on really! But the other children are angles wit her and never bat an eye lid or retaliate. Which I am super proud of because for a 7 year old to not retaliate at all when another child pulls their hair or kicks them is amazing!


And then also at SKIP I have been continuing my work in the Economic Development part…I’ve been working in the office, mainly just waiting for parents (mainly mothers) to come in to pay off their loans, which is simple and quite boring as only a few come in in the 3 hours i’m there. But I’ve also managed to see a few new loans being requested and the process for that which is great, and also the questions that they have to answer in order to apply for a loan and really interesting to know more about the lives of the families of skip. especially finding out how many children some families have (8!) and also like how much money they spend on food and electricity and water etc a week. And then i have also been helping out in the jewelry workshop where mothers come in to make jewelry, we provide the materials and a teacher and they learn and pay the cost of the materials they use and then we sell them from a number of shops and restaurants in and around Trujillo and they get all the profit. and they make the nicest things ever, fantastic bags, pencil cases, scarfs, beautiful earrings, and many things more. They are also able to make you anything you want, perfect to what size you are and exactly how you want it! And working in the workshops consists of chatting to my friend Crystal and putting braids in her hair :p and we actually are really busy after about 15 minutes, logging all the jewelry the mothers make, paying them for what they have sold the last week, and putting tags on the new stuff. And I find this fun, it’s nice to have something structural to do! And it’s nice to be chatting and in with the mothers and we’re slowly learning their names!
And then I have the work at the public school I work at with the amazing Hannah! It’s called Virgin Del Carmen and is in Alto Trujillo, about 5 minutes walk from SKIP. School starts at 7.30am for Primary, in Peru it’s primary in the morning and secondary in the afternoon. But recently our school has been starting at 8.10am as the school has decided for some reason to open one lesson later as swine flu is going round and they think that will stop it!? Even though the homes of the children are in no way warmer than the school, not that that matters for viruses anyway? And plus all the kids are at school by the normal time anyway and just play until lessons commence! V del C is fab though, loads of character and right next to Sara Bolongo, a big sand dune in the middle of El Porvenir… schools are mainly just copy copy copy and the teachers write on the board and the kids copy. There is no supply system in place so if the teacher isn’t in the kids just play outside all day. They also don’t have any teachers to watch over break time/play time so there’s quite a lot of rough playing! And they have goal posts which 5 year old girls love climbing up and dangling off…very dangerous!! Here is a pile of chairs that’s just in the school!



Picture by Fin shields.

Picture by Fin shields.



But recently after we’ve finished teaching both Hannah and I have been getting worn out and drained of energy 🙁 When I started it was so great, and it still is but it’s so hard when the kids on’t listen or you feel like you haven’t taught them anything. These are some reasons why it is hard:
Firstly the teachers are still not supporting us and they should be – They constantly leave the room creating havoc and disorder in the classroom, kids running around, fighting, kicking footballs around! It sounds bad but it’s not awful, just tiring after you’ve taught 5 40 minute classes to kids who haven’t listened! And at least 2 classes each time will turn out well and I feel we have taught a bit but then they’re all at different levels! It’s suggest leaving the room when the teacher leaves but once the lesson has started it is actually really hard to do this. Sometimes…the teacher asks us If they can go to the toilet! But then the teacher will be gone to the toilet for 15 minutes. And at other times the teachers will just say “I’m just going to drop this piece of paper off next door” or whatever, and the next thing you know, 10 minutes later she’ll just be stood outside chatting to another teacher! Also they seem to think that they’re present in the classroom when they’re having a ‘meeting’ with other teachers just outside the classroom. And they don’t speak any English and it’s hard to tell them not to do things as they’re so much older than us and stricter…


Plus even with teachers in the classroom they don’t help with classroom behavior. They’ll only step in when all the kids are screaming or running around, and are not absent in the class even if they’re sitting in. They’ll be doing other work, marking work, chatting to pupils, chatting with pupils about their Work in other subjects, (one specific teacher) brings in her daughter to her class! (Why her daughter is not in school, I will never understand) She not old enough to be in that grade, and she’s such a distraction, she runs around while they’re working and plays tig with them, and chats with them and plays games with them clapping and cries)! Also had teachers sleeping… 😮 But Patri, a coordinator of SKIP came in and spoke to theprinciple last time so hopefully this situation will change!


Having no teaching experience is also proving hard, We don’t get that much training at SKIP, well just a little on classroom behavior and safeguarding but none on lesson plans and creative, fun interactive activities for teaching English…SO if anyone can think of some please leave me a comment on this post! Help will be muchly appreciated!


But I do still love it here and a lot of the work is rewarding, just struggling a bit with the public school side at the moment…But to end on a positive note, when I have a full day at SKIP I manage to stay up in El Porv for lunch and go swimming at the nearby swimming pool which is 23p for an hour! And it’s outside and a little chilly but perfect when it’s sunny and it has goats and sheep just trotting around while you’re swimming – it’s great! And keep an eye out for my next post which will be all about my weekend away in the Sierra, the beautiful rural mountain range, it was amazing!




Katalina Balcomb, long-term EVS (European Voluntary Service) volunteer


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Project supported by the EACEA and the Youth In Action programme of the European Commission.

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