Los Muchachos Dulces

(Today's guest blog comes from Jocelyn, who as I type is most likely flying through the rainforest with all the summer volunteers on the ziplines out in Mindo!)

"After hosting such amazing volunteer groups during spring break season, all of us here at MPIE have been eagerly awaiting our newest arrivals- volunteers from all across the U.S. (and one from Canada!) who will participate in a variety of programs and projects over the course of a month this summer. It is without hesitation that I inform our readers of the fact that we have a pretty sweet group of volunteers here right now, and so far they have done a fantastic job with the tasks they’ve been handed. One of the summer volunteer projects is the planning and teaching of a 3-week intensive English language class for middle-school aged kids in a barrio close to our house. The group in charge of this project have aptly, and enthusiastically, named themselves “Los Muchachos Dulces” (The Sweet Kids), and consequently named me, their fearless leader, “Capitan Dulce”, a title I hold with pride.

We are only 4 days into the program, and “Los Muchachos” are already rocking each class like seasoned professionals. For Rebekah, Priya, Patrick, Maria, and Jeremy, their days look a little something like this:

8am- breakfast (hovering over the flapjack-flipping PD for a second helping or trying to get Perry to poach another egg)

8:30- 11:30am- Spanish class with professors from Quito

11:30- 1:45- lunch, go into town, print worksheets and make copies

1:45pm- toss around the pigskin, head to the bus

2:30-5:30pm- teach English class

6pm- go for a jog as the sun sets (they are hard core)

7:30pm- family style dinner with all the volunteers and PD’s

8:30- 10pm- lesson plan

10pm- read/hang out by the fire on the roof/climb over to the apartment

As you can see, they’ve got a lot on their plate and are handling it beautifully. The first day of class, “Los Muchachos” got their feet wet when 14 kids from the barrio registered in the class, but it was on day two, as 30 children showed up with their notebooks, grinning and ready for 3 hours of English instruction, that they really realized what they had gotten themselves into.

Today’s lesson was one of adjective vocabulary, and since Los Muchachos Dulces had everything completely under control, I sat back and watched as 30 Ecuadorian children in small groups fervently hung onto every word that came out of their Profe’s mouths. The individual teaching styles range from Rebekah acting out adjectives like “tall”, “short”, “fat”, and “skinny” in exaggerated motions, to Patrick rewarding his students with exploding handshakes every time they got a word right. With so many students, the ability levels span a wide spectrum; so personal attention and games are key to keeping each child interested in the daily lesson. Then there are the students who can’t help but stand out among the crowd. For example, my favorite kid, Erick, is a cheeky smart-alec who bugs me constantly for new English vocabulary that he uses to show off for the girls in his group (demonstrating his all encompassing foreign language knowledge).

With two weeks left of the San Juan English class, I can’t wait to see what fun and creative activities Los Muchachos Dulces will think of next. Whatever they are, I know the students will love them, and cherish the time spent with the volunteers to whom they already look up as role models and new friends. It will be a sad day for teachers and students alike when summer ends and we all part ways, but until then, let the exploding handshakes and impromptu vocabulary lessons live on!


(The students break up into their various groups in the Casa Barrial)

(Patrick gets an excited response to a vocab question)

(Rebekah uses flashcards to quiz her group)

(Maria plays a memory game with her posse of girls)