Monday, June 20, 2016

2016: Donation Goal Met for Los Quinchos

The generosity of the Richmond community is incredible and continues to humble me. Families at our school came together to support the 4th grade students' 85 pound donation goal for our philanthropy unit. Not only did the students meet their desired amount, but they collected roughly 110 pounds of school supplies and Spanish books. A HUGE thanks to the families, teachers, and other school community members who made donations!  

The school supplies collected every year for this ongoing philanthropy project help supply Las Yahoskas (the girls of Los Quinchos) with most of their supplies for the following year. The Spanish books supplement the library that we founded in their house several years back, and the girls are always stoked to crack open their new cuentos! 

-Posted using BlogPress from my phone. Please excuse typos!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

2016: 4th Grade Philanthropy Unit -- Students from Richmond, CA Give Back

Ms. So and I have been co-facilitating a philanthropy unit for the 4th grade class at our school in Richmond, CA. Students are learning about authentic partnership, non-profit work, service-learning, and the steps involved in the volunteer process. Their goal is to raise 85 pounds of donations for Los Quinchos (50 pounds of school supplies and 35 pounds of books in Spanish to add to Las Yahoska's library). Our amazing 4th grade class is well on their way to reaching this goal!

While collecting donations, our awesome students are reading first hand accounts of others engaging in international philanthropic processes. They are also learning about Nicaraguan culture and writing pen pal letters to the girls at Las Yahoskas.

Los Quinchos Projects:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

2015: The Rainbow Fish and The Blue Whale

Many Americans have read The Rainbow Fish, an awesome children's book that tells the story of a sparkly fish who learns to share his shiny scales. Today we read the Rainbow Fish and the Blue Whale (El Pez Arco Iris y La Ballena Azul). The whale keeps staring at the beautiful scales on the fish, and they get frustrated that he is staring at them. The fish begin to make fun of him, and he gets sad, and then frustrated and violent. The Rainbow Fish eventually approaches the whale and they discuss what happened. The fish realizes what the whale was doing and the whale realizes that he intimidated the fish. Using this book, we spent the day exploring how to ask others how they feel, how to express our emotions effectively, and how our emotions affect us.

To process how our emotions present in our bodies, Gloria and I helped the girls acted out a variety of feelings while the rest of the group guessed what they were expressing. We drew hearts and talked about how unkind words create wrinkles on our souls. The girls crumpled their paper hearts with each mean statement they could come up with. Using our hands, we then "ironed" out or hearts with positive  statements. The girls were able to recognize the power of their words on other's feelings, and they stated that they felt empowered, joyful, and thoughtful as the activity finished.

We then used balloons to simulate how stress affects us throughout the day. The girls blew into the balloons while we told them a story, blowing air in when something negative happened to the character, Juana, and letting air out when she used a calming strategy or something positive occurred. Post-story, we discussed how we can't control others actions, but we can work to control our responses and stress reactions. To close the circle, each girl had to compliment the girl to their right, which made them nervous but ended up causing many smiles! It was a beautiful workshop, and Las Yahoskas continue to teach us new lessons each day. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

2015: Somos fuertes! We are strong!

It is great to be back for my sixth summer. Nicaragua is beautiful as usual. I missed the rain on tin roofs, mangos falling like leaves, and amazing gente. I am so lucky to be able to continue to work alongside this wonderful community.

The girls at Las Yahoskas are so grown up and it is great to meet the new ladies! A few of the girls were 4 and 5 when we met them in 2008. Now they are all grown up and in high school! Time flies...

I am humbled as an educator with every day I spend with Las Yahoskas. They are incredibly patient, kind, and energetic. Our week long self-esteem workshop has began! We worked on fostering personal strengths (fuerzas) by writing "I am" poems and drawing "power pictures." The girls want you to see their amazing work below! 

Check out the Girls Only Toolkit via Google. It has been used by LAUSD and others, and it is a great girls empowerment curriculum! 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

2015: All-nighters never fail

I always plan to get sleep the night before I leave for Nicaragua, but I get too excited...maybe anxious is a better word. Did I gather enough donations? Will I get my yearly dose of parasites? Which girl will I get to hug first? How much have the girls grown? These questions flow through my head like a raging river...uncontrollable. I can't sleep, so I shouldn't fight it. That's what planes are for right?

Before I leave, I want to give a special thanks to my friends and family who support me year after year. I couldn't continue to make this journey without them. And a special thanks to my parents for becoming a permanent part of my work with Los Quinchos - they started a scholarship program which is currently funding the first girl from Las Yahoskas to go to college (she is about to start her fourth semester)! Another special thanks to Anna Ledezma, who makes gorgeous hair bows (photographed above) year after year for the girls.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

2013: To hold a book is gold

Most of us may remember the story Madeline, regarding a young, curious girl who lived in a boarding house with 11 other little ladies. To the Quinchos, this book proved to be very significant, as it outlines many of the feelings they have experienced having lived apart from their families. As I read it aloud during our literature class the Yahoskas had many connections to share.

Many of their insightful predictions proved to be true, and they easily picked out the author's message at the end of the story. "It is important to support each other," many of them concluded. It felt great to see Las Yahoskas taking about books and enjoying class.

AMs. Jacobi, as many Bay Area students know her, came to join in the Quincho fun! Her first day on the job was animal rehabilitation day, in which I paid a local vet to come give vaccines, vitamins, and parasite medicines to the three dogs, four puppies, and two week old kitten.  Anna has been invaluable, bringing her amazing UC Berkeley social work training and utilizing her skill set to the fullest (including holding nervous animals while receiving their shots--clearly a social work skill).

I am lucky to have such great friends - Katie Lewis, another former Lincoln Elementary teacher, also made a surprise visit to Los Quinchos on her way to work at a school outside of Granada!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

2013: The Walk to Los Quinchos

It is always an adventure getting to Los Quinchos. During the 45 minute walk, I often encounter people I know, but sometimes I get to know people I have never met. Today I walked alongside a three year old and his Dad. After I had waved hello to the boy, who was riding on his Dad's shoulders, we struck up a conversation about how hot it was, as we all tried to walk in the shade. As we walked, we discussed San Marcos and La Concha, the barrio outside the town. Eventually, the boy's dad started talking about his family - they had just come from the jail in Managua, visiting his mother. He went on to explain her reasons for being in jail and how the boy's three other young siblings lived with him and his grandfather on a small farm. It was an honor to listen to his story.

Day two with the girls was great. We started the yearly animal rehabilitation and brought dog food, kitten food, and flea medication for all their pets. Afterwards, we read a book about the brain, learning about the cerebellum, brain stem, and cortex. The girls were surprised to learn that the opposite side of their brains (we practiced the word hemisphere in Spanish) controls the opposite side of their bodies. Today marked the start of our non-fiction unit.

Monday, June 17, 2013

2013: Day 1 with Las Yahoskas

Day one with the girls was fantastic. They immediately wanted to read, grabbing my hands and leading me to the library :) It is nice to see them asking me, instead of me asking them. When reading with them, I saw a lot of improvement in their fluency and comprehension from previous years. The books donated in previous years have most certainly been used!

Today I read a cuento to the younger girls about a burro who found a magic, red pebble. So as not to be seen, he wished upon the magic pebble to turn into a rock as a lion was approaching. After the lion passed, he realized he couldn't turn himself back into a mule, for he had no hands to pick up the magic pebble. He went missing for over a year until his family found the rock in the forest - and wished he would reappear. He was dearly missed.

We used this book to make connections to their lives - many described times when their family members went missing and they were really worried. Many of the girls have cared for younger siblings, and several have lost siblings while caring for them. The girls were quick to pick up the message - be careful what you wish for!

Throughout the day, almost every girl asked me if they were going to receive pen pal letters for a third time - they were particularly excited to hear that my students in California included Jolly Ranchers in the envelopes! Letter writing will begin next week. To my students in Richmond, California - the responses to your letters will soon be under way!

Friday, June 14, 2013

2013: Richmond students collect 100 pounds of donations for Los Quinchos in Nicaragua!

Not many words are needed: 32 children around a carpet, sorting 50 pounds of school supplies and 50 pounds of Spanish books - such great chaos! 

We sorted all the school supplies into categories in order to make the suitcase packing easier! They did a great job working together for a cause they really care about - helping children in a different country that need support and supplies.

Students then returned to their table groups with one supply category in order to remove the packaging - each pound counts on United Airlines! 

Thank you to all my awesome students for their hard work and dedication to philanthropy! 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

2013: Letter exchange between students from Richmond, California and Los Quinchos

My previous students, all in 5th grade, loved getting their pen pal letters from their Nicaraguan penpals (the letters the Quinchos wrote with me during summer 2012). It was awesome to my students' faces as they realized that they truly helped others - their donations went a long way in Nicaragua. All faces bore huge smiles as I showed them a video I put together of the donations being handed out to the Quinchos. During the letter exchange party, students helped each other translate the Spanish letters for those who couldn't read the language. A mother of one of my Richmond students made gallo pinto (Nicaraguan rice and beans) to eat while reading their letters and watching the video. Small donations can go a long way. Students from two distant nations felt so connected via small pieces of paper and school supplies. I love my job!  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

2012: Teamwork Takes Time

The girls need to be encouraged to work in small groups. On certain days, I divided the girls  into groups of four to partner read a book and then discuss the theme, setting, etc. Teamwork was discussed and practiced beforehand. We need to, "Be positive, encouraging, and patient." Dr. Suess, a popular author among the girls this year, was chosen for our first group reading session. His books are engaging and enjoyable to kids of all ages.  See above for photos and a video of the girls working together on their reading skills.

2012: Dr. Suess is loved world wide!

Returning to Nicaragua for the fourth summer felt like returning home. It was easy to get back into the swing of things. My first Nicaraguan moment brought me to tears – all four family members (Leonela’s new son Josue included) waved at me frantically though the enormous, glass window that divides the baggage claim from the waiting area. After passing through customs, my homestay family welcomed me with hugs and tears, as they now consider me part of the family, and Doña Ivania considers me her “eight child.” “Eres mi hija Americana….o hija adoptiva!” Doña Ivania, my homestay mother gushed, as she and my brother and sister enveloped me in a large group hug. Translated it means, “You are my American daughter…or adopted daughter.” I couldn’t feel more at home with them – and I am a tía (aunt)! Josue is 6 weeks old and couldn’t be cuter. It feels so easy to live day in and day out with them. I feel lucky to have a home away from home.

The reading workshops have been under way and the girls are enjoying literature class. Gabi, another Haverford volunteer, has been a great partner teacher. Upon arrival, the girls immediately started to ask me, “Margarita, are we going to do reading class like we always do? Can we start right now?”  It was great to see them so invested in the love of reading. We started each day with a read aloud during lunch. The girls have been banned from talking during meals, so I deemed it appropriate to pick out engaging books to read them during this time.
After eating, we then proceeded to the library and got to work. We would read another story as a group, discuss the meaning or moral of the story, as well as the characters and the setting. Among the girls’ favorite books were Oh the Places You’ll Go, Green Eggs and Ham, and The Lorax by Dr. Suess.  Somehow, Dr. Suesss managed to rhyme many of his phrases in Spanish as well as English. Clever man or whoever translated his books! After reading a read-a-loud each day, Gabi and I then helped each girl pick out appropriate books for their reading levels. The girls easily fell into chairs and immersed themselves into their books. Every day I have been pleased to see the girls so focued. Reading is such a great escape from the everyday world. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

2012: Animal Rescue

Lulu, the Yahoskas dog, recently had a litter of seven puppies (Lulu is the white dog in the second picture). Five of them died from starvation. Upon my first visit to the Yahoska's home, I discovered the last two puppies (only six weeks old) being rejected by their mother. She bit them each time they tried to nurse, since she too is starving. Unable to focus on my projects intended for that day, because of the brown puppy that was dying on the ground, I decided my first project would be to save the pups. "Girls, the pups are going to die, like the other five, unless I take them to the vet." The girls helped me find an old box with which to carry the puppies. They emptied the soap and supplies that were being kept inside, and placed the dying puppy and its more lively sibling inside. Off I went with the other volunteer, Gabi, on a paseo to San Marcos.

In 2008, I had a similar experience with puppies, but had to transport them on over five hours of buses (see earliest blog posts). The 1 km walk and moto ride into town proved to be much easier than my previous trip with puppies in a box! We visited the nearest veterinarian. My granny always tells me to keep a $50 bill hidden in my wallet for emergencies. The last time I had used it was for the last batch of puppies, so I thought it appropriate to try the same approach. Most Nicaraguan veterinary offices do not take animals overnight, but with the offer of $50, they made an exception. They agreed to recuperate the starving pups, give them all necessary vaccines, and feed them every two hours for seven days - all for the price of $50. Small amounts of money and effort go a long way in Nicaragua.

The next challenge was to find a good home for these tiny animals, whom should be with their mother for another six weeks or so (but this would not be possible, as their original home does not have the means to feed them and give them the proper care).

I returned to the Yahoskas for the rest of the day, and decided to visit the vets office after work to check in. AMAZING! One of the men who works at the office took a liking to the babies, and asked if he could have them. Who better to take the dogs than a person from a veterinary office? Successful first Monday in Nicaragua!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

2012: Richmond 4th Graders Engage in Philanthropy Project!

My students and I carried out our annual philanthropy unit, exploring the meaning of helping others and making a positive impact on our world. We carried out the Three Cups Of Tea young readers literature unit, learning about how many people in the world are deprived the right to education. After falling in love with the children of Korphe, Pakistan, as well as hearing my many stories of the street children in Nicaragua, my students were eager to help.

After six weeks, students fulfilled their goal to fill two, large suit cases of donations for the street children I work with in Nicaragua. They brought in Spanish books from home and bought out many dollar stores in order to bring in school supplies for the Yahoskas. This year's class, only 26 students, raised 96 pounds of Spanish children's books and school supplies. As you can see in the first picture, students sorted the donation boxes into categories, helping me to remove all the packaging in order to more efficiently save space in the suit case (being sure to recycle all paper and plastic products). In 2011, I didn't think to have my students engage in this process, and I ended up spending many hours doing it myself. You learn with each year! While they were sorting, many of them said, "Ms. Bishop, this feels so good!" It was motivating to see such young students thinking beyond themselves, giving to those who need help. One of them, who has been saving money for college, spent some of her own money to buy supplies. Her mother was really proud of her decision and contribution, as am I! In order to change the world, we have to change mindsets. There is always a way to help out!

Most importantly, students engaged in the writing process by composing thoughtful pen-pal letters to the Yahoskas. To make a child feel important via a letter can be very powerful. I remember feeling so special getting mail at camp from my mother and family, and I can't imagine what it would feel like to get a letter from a curious pen-pal from another country. Students were instructed to describe their community, family, interests, and school life (along with whatever other details they could write full paragraphs about) in their letters.  Students wrote in their languages of choice, after careful planning. When final drafts were complete, students who didn't know how to write in Spanish were tutored by students who could. Many hours were spent in translation stage, but after much work all the letters were successfully translated into Spanish! Andres, who volunteered for the day, was able to help one of my students learn some Spanish during the translation process (his mother has given consent to display this photo). Six of my previous students, currently on their way to the sixth grade, wrote second letters to their pen-pals from last year.

Richmond students, you are changing the world and helping out those in need! Thank you to parents and community members who helped to make this project a reality!

Friday, July 29, 2011

2011: Sustainability and Reflection

After three internships in Nicaragua, I thought it was time to share my experiences and feelings about Los Quinchos with both the founder and director of the organization. I struggled to come up with a project that would help Los Quinchos hold their workers accountable for reading and working academically with the Yahoskas. Unfortunately, the girls are limited to a three hour school day. With ample amounts of free time, they need structured literacy instruction in order to gain the lost yards in their educations. With the library resources Nour and I have provided over the years, and the reading-workshop trainings we have modeled, they have the resources to increase academic rigor for these kids. The Quinchos have the main library, and a wonderful librarian, that is often unused.

I was frustrated to see that the books were not used on a daily basis. I shared this with Zelinda and Carlos Vidal in our hour and a half reflection/planning meeting. I proposed the development of a documentation system for the main Los Quinchos library, as well as the Yahoska library. This system requires the educators to log their daily reading sessions with the children. Zelinda and Carlos really liked this idea, so I developed the spread sheets and had them bound into accountability books. The educators (the employees who work at the Yahoska complex and the main Los Quinchos library) will need to document who is supervising reading time, the date, what time the library is opened, and what children are present at the time of reading workshop. This system will allow the director to know to what degree the academic resources are being utilized.

We also developed a concrete reading schedule for the girls - with an hour and a half of reading built into each day! Lets get reading!

2011: International Pen Pals

Letter writing is an essential fourth grade writing standard. Knowing this, I wanted my fourth grade students in Richmond, California to feel a sense of purpose when writing a letter to another person. With this notion, our class decided that we would write letters to the children I work with in Nicaragua. After much investment in our philanthropy unit, reading Three Cups of Tea, and gathering donations for Los Quinchos, my students were ecstatic when I allowed them to paint pictures of their lives via letters. Knowing that another child, in another part of the world, might enjoy what you have to say is an exciting idea! Half of the letters were in Spanish (as half of my students came out of the bilingual program and have the ability to write in Spanish) and half of my students wrote in English.

Each Yahoska received one or two letters, depending on their writing ability and age, to read and then respond to. The girls were stoked to receive letters from my students!   For the letters in English, Nour, Gloria, and I spent large amounts of time translating the letters to each individual girl. With the youngest Yahoskas, we sat with each individual and aided them in their composition. The girls enjoyed being allotted time to think through their life experiences and develop letters that describe their 7-year-old lives in Nicaragua.

I can't wait to throw my previous 4th grade students in Richmond, who are now big fifth graders, a Nicaragua party so that they can see the pictures of the girls receiving the donations they collected, as well as receive their pen pal letters!