New Evolution for El Hato, Old Hat for Las Manos
Bryant, owner of the Oxford Language Centers in Guatemala, established Las Manos de Christine to assist other NGOs in developing and running specialized English programs with qualified, professional English teachers. For the last four years, Las Manos has partnered with Camino Seguro (Safe Passage www.safepassage.org), an NGO that provides medical, educational, and nutritional support to the most at-risk kids and families in Guatemala City. Camino Seguro and Las Manos work annually with over 550 children. After only four years of involvement, Las Manos has produced great results at Camino Seguro, helping to raise the children’s marks to amongst the top in the English section of the national exam. Now, with the Camino Seguro project implemented and successful, and with Camino’s funding strong enough to support an English staff, Las Manos is scaling back its involvement in everyday Camino operations (maintaining an advisory position) and branching out to continue its efforts elsewhere.
Las Manos goes about its mission with a unique approach to volunteerism and collaboration. Instructors are always paid a small stipend so that they can commit upwards of a year, which ensures that the students get trained teachers in a stable classroom environment. In addition, the NGO chooses to work with established educational institutions, boosting already functioning schools with professional English programs. Las Manos supplies all the necessary texts, materials, and staff to bolster other well-meaning organizations, the intention being that, once the curriculum is firmly incorporated, the school or NGO will be able to sustain its new program. El Hato represents the organization's first foray into the Guatemalan public school system, and for Las Manos, the project brings to life a great new hope of changing government education from the inside.
To head up the El Hato project, Las Manos has recruited one of its most successful instructors from Camino Seguro. Emma Gallagher, a veteran at bridging elementary and ESL education, brings over five years and five different countries of experience to El Hato. Emma focuses on linking fun with education, utilizing songs, art projects, storybooks, flashcards and jugados pocos ("little games") into her lessons. She began teaching ESL in Korea in 2005, where she garnered four “Best Teacher” awards in her two-and-a-half years of work there. In 2008, she volunteered at the Camino branch and has since used her talents in Istanbul, Turkey, and in the West Bank. Emma returned to Guatemala this April and has committed to at least one year in El Hato.
Las Manos will also be utilizing short-term volunteers to help with after-school programs at El Hato. True to form, the NGO will be taking an unusual approach, calling for people of all trades and abilities to use their specific skills at the school. The organization's philosophy is that all participants--the volunteers, the children, and the village--should take from and enjoy the project, that the effort should be fun and not guilt-driven charity. Within its first month of operation in El Hato, Las Manos has arranged for a clubhouse to be built in the playground and has reached out to the American School of Guatemala in effort to provide more affluent Guatemalan children a chance to interact with their less fortunate friends.
Bryant could not be more pleased with his NGO’s work and the honor it has brought to his mother’s name, and he truly anticipates another great success in El Hato. For more information regarding Earth Lodge and El Hato, visit www.earthlodgeguatemala.com, and to learn more about Las Manos de Christine, visit http://www.lasmanosdc.org/. If you are interested in volunteering with Las Manos, you can email the volunteer coordinator, Jonathon, at firstname.lastname@example.org.