Around this time last year I was sent north to Jinotega for a Volunteer Visit with then Small Business Development Volunteer Hannah (she is now a Returned PC Volunteer in the US, meaning she completed her two years of service). With the next group of Small Business Development Volunteers, Nica 65, in training, it was time for them to have their Volunteer Visits. However, there’s 20 of them and only 21 or 22 Volunteers in the field, so the office couldn’t make individual Volunteers Visits work this year. Instead, they planned five mini-group visits, or “Practicum Weeks.”
- Chinandega, Chinandega
- León, León
- Estelí, Estelí
- La Dalia, Matagalpa
- El Rama, La RAAS
With the exception of El Rama, I’ve visited all of these sites. My opinions vary (Chinandega in April?), but I know all of the business volunteers in these sites without exception, and can say that all of the Trainees were going to be lucky to get a chance to work with those Volunteers.
My group of four misfits arrived on Sunday, noontime. Since they got to Nicaragua six weeks ago this was their first time traveling out of the immediate vicinity of the training towns, so they were very excited to be in León. Having also only eaten gallo pinto for the last month and a half, their first stop was the supermarket. They cooked themselves nearly every meal (I had them in a hotel with a public kitchen).
There was one Volunteer from each training town, which means their language levels varied from novice to advanced. They were also accompanied by a Spanish teacher who spent the week with us (she traveled separately though so that they could start getting the ropes of the Nicaraguan transportation system).
Since we only had Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for work the week was truly packed. As soon as they arrived on Sunday they split into two groups to co-plan classes with two of my Counterparts, Carlos and Wilber.
We spent most of the morning Monday planning for our business training on Tuesday, and on Monday afternoon we headed to Carlos’ school to co-teach with him.
Planning and executing Tuesday’s business training was very difficult. Many of the participants were illiterate, so we had to plan an informative session without using too many words. It went great though, and the Trainees did a great job helping to make the materials as well as teaching the concepts on Tuesday (I’ll probably write a more in-depth post about the training in a month – it was the first of a series of three trainings with a fish processing cooperative). They even came up with a great activity for teaching basic accounting, using a technique that they were recently taught during training. I think the Trainees also really liked Tuesday because before the training we went to the beach, swam, and got fried fish.
After the training was over the Cooperative took us on a tour of the mangrove estuary behind their property. It was my second trip back there, but the first time I didn’t have my camera. It is a very tranquil place, in my opinion. The Cooperative hopes to use it for tourism, conservation, and harvesting black clams (a local delicacy which is made into a clam cocktail, kind of like ceviche).
So that leaves Wednesday. The morning began with class with Wilber at Instituto Nacional del Occidente, which went fairly well (they taught two section with Wilber, and I was happy to see everyone take the lessons learned from the first section and improve the class the second time around). And in the afternoon I had planned a teacher training for a small group of teachers. I facilitated, “Lesson Planning for Entrepreneurship” and afterwards the teachers broke into four groups, one for each of the Trainees, and planned a class together. It went very well and I think the teachers latched on well to the model of lesson plans that I proposed.
And by Wednesday night it was all over. We went out, got drinks, and talked about what it’s like being a Volunteer (as opposed to Training). On Thursday they were on their way back to Managua. I hope they enjoyed their time in León and got a good impression of what a Volunteer’s life is like, despite the extreme heat and all of the work we had to do in such a short amount of time.