Mexico – Sofia McNamee

On the 3rd of July 2012 I embarked upon on a voluntary teaching and community placement in Merida, Mexico with ‘Original Volunteers’.  I travelled ten hours on a direct flight from London Gatwick to Cancun, and from there travelled four hours via Bus to Merida. During my stay I lived with other volunteers, who like myself, were involved in local community projects in and around Merida.

During my first few days, I was able to visit both a local primary and secondary school, in which I worked alongside small classes interacting with the pupils and supporting some of their projects. One of these involved planting trees within the school grounds to help create a shaded area for children to cool off during their humid and dry seasons.

However, as the summer holidays were about to begin, my time in a school setting was limited. Following this, I was then placed in a library based summer school project located in a small village called ‘Hunucma’. The project involved planning and delivering a range of activities for all children to participate in. These included: reading, playing sports such as Basketball, dancing and lots of different arts and crafts activities. Alongside these activities I also taught a sequence of informal English classes for the children while they were out of term time.

At first there were only a few of the children who attended the session, but after the first few days and with interest from the local newspaper, it was great to see so many more children arriving daily.

In order to make the most of the project I worked closely alongside the volunteer co-ordinator and my fellow volunteers to plan fun and creative activities for all the children. This involved differentiating the tasks for different age groups and incorporating themes for each day, for example, ‘animals’, ‘my family’, ‘celebrations’ and ‘the home’. I also planned as many English sessions as possible around each theme.

The English classes in particular, provided me with great experience for my teacher training course. Although many children already knew Basic English, they really appreciated practicing their speaking and listening skills as well as expanding their vocabulary.

What’s more, as many of the children have limited access to art materials and equipment, they really appreciated the arts and crafts session. I worked closely with the younger children (aged five to eleven) who enjoyed drawing, painting and working with a variety of materials. These sessions provided the children with lots of fun and boosted their self esteem. The generous funding from Eleanor Peel enabled me to support these sessions by supplying the children with lots of different materials and resources.

                      Moreover, whilst volunteering in Merida, I had the pleasure of meeting some fantastic people from both the local community and fellow volunteers. Having the weekends free, a group of us would often walk to Centro and Downtown Merida where we immersed ourselves into the local culture – enjoying live music and folk dance performances every Sunday. Occasionally we would venture further afield and visit Ancient Mayan sites such as Uxmal and Chichen Itza.

Finally, I would like to thank the Eleanor Peel Trust for sponsoring this project and contributing towards the cost of resources, equipment and travel to the project.  This was very much appreciated by me and all the children who participated in the project. The experience was very rewarding and I hope to return to Merida in the future.