The more time we spend here in Mexico, the more we realize the importance of shared language to build relationships and experience success. Every day we struggle to explain something we need or want – to express an idea or an emotion. We are fortunate because there is a lot of English spoken here in the Bay – it is a big tourist area and we really could live comfortably if we never tried to speak Spanish. But we don’t want to live life on the outer edges – to be tourists in our own town. We want to experience life in the center of the community, to be able to speak to our neighbors and especially to communicate well with the children at Manos de Amor. So we are doing our Duolingo every day and slowly getting better. Grant is way ahead of me in the program – he has a bigger vocabulary and has done many more lessons. I am more willing to just start talking, even if I sound ridiculous and make no sense. We are each learning within our own personalities – the introvert and the extrovert – and we are slowly making progress.
Using the Duolingo app every day gave us an idea – why not use this same type of fun technology to teach the children how to speak English? The children at Casa Hogar are already one step ahead of many of their family members and peers because they are regularly attending school. They receive help every afternoon with homework from our tutor Jezebel. They are all bringing home good report cards. If they stick with it, this will definitely help them get a job when they graduate. But we live in a tourist zone – if they learn English another door will swing wide open for them to work in the hotels and restaurants. We have volunteers throughout the year who come to the home to help with English, but many are in the area temporarily and we have not been able to set up a long-term English program.
Last summer my friends from Bloom Church came to Bucerias for a week of service – working with the local churches in several surrounding communities and of course working at Manos de Amor. At the end of the week there was around $1200 left from the money they had raised and we didn’t really know where to use it – so they told me to hang onto it until I saw a good place to use it. One day a few weeks ago Grant and I decided this might be it – let’s buy some tablets and combine fun technology with language learning. It’s working for us – surely it can work for children. We went shopping and bought 5 tablets.We downloaded Duolingo for the big kids and a few English learning apps for the little kids. And we jumped in. Obviously, they were super excited to use the brand new tablets – and I am impressed with their progress.
We are just getting started. We have had 4 or 5 classes using the old and very slow computers in the homework room and now we have switched everything over to the tablets. We will have 2 classes a week for the big kids and 2 classes a week for the little kids. They will work through the apps at their own speed and at the end of the class there will be some time for game fun. At first Grant and I will supervise and we hope to figure it out enough that volunteers can step in and work with the children.
Thanks to those of you who donated money to Bloom last summer. We would love to buy more tablets – if that is something you would like to donate to, you can do so by giving online. You will receive an income tax receipt if you donate using the Canadian or American link. Go to www.manosdeamor.com and click on Give Online tab.
Stay tuned for a progress report! I suspect it’s going to be a bumpy adventure.